By Fiona Redmond, News Editor
The Bryn Mawr College Hillel club, dedicated to giving Jewish students a community within which to explore and practice their faith, has introduced the event “Call Your Representative” in order to encourage on-campus activism and get people involved in political issues. The event is held in the Campus Center bi-weekly, with Facebook events providing further details.
The club has hosted two of these events so far, and plans to continue with their bi-weekly schedule, with hopes to branch out in the future. During this event, which is open to the public, participants take the time to call the offices of Pennsylvania representatives to discuss current issues, ask questions about policies and, if need be, create enough pressure for representatives to change their stance on certain issues.
Hannah Rifkin ’17, president of Bryn Mawr Hillel, calls the event a “product of its time,” referring to the recent rise in activism and political participation that has occurred since the inauguration of President Trump in January.
“The bi-co community and Bryn Mawr are really dealing with immense frustration and difficulty and fear,” said Rifkin. “We wanted to have an event that’s based in the community that moves forward and hopefully can create some change while basing itself in a community movement.”
Rifkin said that, as a Jewish person, she feels she has an “ethical and religious obligation” to stand up to the current administration, and that the community is overall more powerful together than individually.
The Bryn Mawr Hillel club is named after Rabbi Hillel, a Rabbi from the time of ancient Babylon, famous for the quote “If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” This sentiment has been used as a guiding message for the club, driving them to create action and take responsibility in the face of hardship.
Rifkin gave credit for the “Call Your Representatives” idea to Bryn Mawr student Kristal Sotamayor, who hosted a similar phone banking event in the Fall 2016 semester to talk to Philadelphia representatives about sanctuary cities.
The club has held two such events so far this semester. The first focused on calling Pennsylvania Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey about the confirmation of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, while the second focused on questioning Senators Toomey and Casey about the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Rifkin was sure to note that there is no one issue that the club prioritizes over others, and she encourages people to call representatives about whatever topics are important to them personally.
“Everything is just very alarming” she said, talking about the series of issues that Bryn Mawr students address at the events. “You can call and talk about whatever you want to talk about.”
While the club currently has no plans to partner with other groups on campus, Julianna Nechin ’18, a member of Bryn Mawr Hillel, does think that “it is important for clubs on campus to call their representative and encourage their members to speak out”.
According to Rifkin, “Call Your Representative” events are open to everyone: staff, students, faculty, people who “are Jewish, aren’t Jewish, are Jew-ish … Literally anyone can come.”
Search the Bryn Mawr College Hillel Facebook page to see when the next “Call Your Representative” event will be held and to find any activities the club will have in the future.