Featured Org of the Week: Macalester Jewish Organization (MJO)


This week The Mac Weekly sat down with Abby Russell ’09 and Sarah Moskowitz ’09, co-leaders of Macalester Jewish Organization.

TMW: What’s your favorite thing about MJO?

AR: MJO is always changing, but we have a core group. There’s always this question about what denomination we are, but we have our MJO traditions. It’s like on the one hand, we’re a mix of what everyone in the group is, and everyone brings their own traditions, and on the other hand, we kind of have these just MJO traditions. I always wonder if the tunes that we use are heard in any synagogue or if these are just tunes that we made up.

TMW: What was it like at your first MJO meeting?

AR: I just remember not knowing where the HeHo [Hebrew House] was and not knowing where to go. It was really intimidating as a freshman. But everyone was really welcoming.

SM: It’s very low key. It’s just hanging out with a bunch of people that happen to be Jewish.

SM: I was also really impressed with [my first] Open Shabbat.

AR: Everyone sits on the floor, and it’s so different from Jewish life at home was, where you went to synagogue and had to dress up, but this is just very relaxed.

TMW: How long have you been active in MJO?

AR: Freshman year.

SM: Same for me. We were in the same first-year class, so we came over together.

AR: It was about Jews in media.

SM: I remember I didn’t go at first, because I went home a lot the first couple of weeks. But then [my friends] convinced me to go over, and our whole class went.

TMW: What do you think of being co-leaders of MJO?

SM: It’s a lot of work, but I love it.

AM: We do a lot more programming than most orgs. We have Open Shabbat every other week, and then whatever else we want to do. It’s a lot, but it’s fun.

SM: It’s also a lot of community building.

TMW: Three years ago, MJO made their own Open Shabbat siddurim [prayer book]. What was that like?

SM: There was a committee, with Abby as the compiler.

AR: Three of us sat there and debated what should go in. We had a lot of fun, but it was kind of tough. We bought a [computer] program and I put it together. We’re going to try and do something similar for the Haggadah (the Passover prayer book).

TMW: How have High Holidays gone so far?

SM: We planned and worked hard on it, but it was really done by the people who did the [Rosh Hashanah] service. Emily Cohen led the service and worked really hard on it with Barry Cytron [the Jewish Chaplin]. We kind of acted as a liaison between Barry and the org, like coordinating off-campus rides and on-campus publicity.

Yom Kippur will be nice because a lot more students will be able to go off campus. For Rosh Hashanah, I think only five [students] went off campus, because it’s two days, which is harder to take off.

TMW: Do you have anything exciting coming up?

AR: I think every open Shabbat is exciting personally.

We’re also doing a lox and bagels event Nov. 2 about the events in Postville, Ia., with a bunch of members of both the Jewish community and the Mac community come for the event. There will be a rabbi that’s been involved in bringing together the conservative and reform congregations, someone from Jewish Community Action, two students and hopefully a Mac professor.

We do so much religious programming that we’re trying to do more secular programming that’s related to Judaism.

SM: More like academic and cultural.

Also we’re having our Family Fest Open Shabbat this Friday, and then Sukkot. We’re trying to figure out how we can work Hanukkah into the semester because it will come in the middle of winter break.

AR: And Jews love Hanukkah.