Feb. 28, Furman University’s Jewish Student Association (JSA) celebrated its partnership with the Greenville Jewish Film Festival with a CLP to kick off the first day of the festival. This partnership and CLP were parts of JSA’s efforts to increase its visibility on campus and in the Greenville community.
Co-presidents Lydia Morris and Morgan Cooper were having dinner at the rabbi’s house when the two met Caroline Warthen, who is involved in the Jewish Film Festival. “I was talking to her since my family is involved with the Atlanta film festival,” Morris said. “Me and Morgan wanted to get JSA involved.”
Morris reported that partnership was an ongoing process since Fall 2018. The festival had a kickoff in October featuring a movie about Israeli cuisine, which JSA showed for a CLP. JSA played a role in financially contributing to the film festival by hosting a speaker CLP at Furman on the day of the festival who Furman then sponsored to speak at the Greenville Jewish Film Festival.
The CLP took place in Burgiss Theater on Feb. 28, featuring Dr. Eric Goldman, a notable film historian and educator. Through a series of film clips and discussion, Goldman spoke about the American Jewish story through cinema and how filmmakers created their own unique concept of the Jew.
2019 marks the first annual Jewish film festival in Greenville, an event that according to its website, “seeks to offer quality entertainment that will create an ongoing vehicle for the Greenville Jewish Community to strengthen its cultural foundation, promote diversity through higher visibility, and grow Greenville’s reputation as a culturally vibrant Jewish community.”
Morris explained that the festival screens films about Jewish people as well as films produced by Jewish producers.
The 2019 film lineup featured three films: Fanny’s Journey, Humor Me and Heading Home. Morris explained that all these films have been previously premiered screened at other Jewish Film Festivals across the world, but were selected by Greenville’s festival due to their popular reception. “This year’s three movies are very different, so it will help us determine which kind of movies people want to see in selecting for next year,” Morris said.
Fanny’s Journey, for example, was screened last year at the Atlanta Film Festival. “Fanny’s Journey recounts the story of Jewish children during the Holocaust trying to escape Nazi Germany and survive until the war is over,” Morris said. She added that Heading Home, which is about the Israeli national baseball team, was helped sponsored by Greenville Drive.
JSA’s involvement in the festival allowed JSA to engage in Greenville’s Jewish communit. Cooper said that JSA’s invovlement is more than a working relationship with the festival. “It is a tie between the Furman community and the greater Greenville community,” she said. “The Jewish population may be small but we are a united front that will always stick together.”
JSA’s partnership with the festival is one of many measures Morris and Cooper have taken to revive JSA on Furman’s campus and connect with Greenville’s Jewish community.
Morris and Cooper joined JSA during their freshman year. Cooper noted, however, “When I came to Furman as a freshman, our organization was practically inactive.” Cooper added, “Right away I saw an opportunity to establish and help grow the Jewish community.”
Morris felt similarly about JSA’s lack of presence on campus when visiting Furman prior to her freshman year. Upon inquiry, she said that it took her mom and the assistant coach about an hour trying to contact someone to see if there was a Jewish group on campus.
Morris also saw this as an opportunity to grow JSA. “I had always come from a community with a strong Jewish presence,” she said. “I thought I could help Furman by getting more Jewish students here and getting the word out.”
In Fall 2017, Morris and Cooper, who were sophomores at the time, worked to bring this mission of revival to life.
“When we first started, we wondered what we could do to get our name out so people know who we are and what we do,” Morris said. She said that the group decided to start “Schmooze with the Jews,” an event that occurs a few times each semester, offering free bagels on the library steps with JSA. Cooper added that it is great form of press for JSA. “We get to show Furman who we are,” she said.
In addition to partnering with the film festival, hosting CLPs and “Schmooze with the Jews,” the organization met at the beginning of the semester for Tu Bishvat, the new year for trees, where the group met and planted indoor parsley that will be ready for Passover.
JSA also has collaborated with other religious groups on campus. In the fall, JSA collaborated with Delight Christian ministry, the Muslim Student Association and Interfaith to put on a tie dye picnic event. Morris added that JSA will be doing a Passover Seder with the Mere Christianity Forum (MCF) this year to better educate MCF on the Jewish religion through the Passover Seder.
Cooper believes Furman’s small size puts JSA’s mission at an advantage. “Being a small campus makes it easy to spread news of upcoming events or parties,” Cooper said.
In order to spread word of events, Cooper explained that the group has focused on creating aesthetically appealing flyers which are hung across campus and projected on digital boards. She added that he group also continues to build its voice on social media.
Morris added that the group wants to help students and the community learn more about the Jewish culture through the holidays the group celebrates and the events they organize. “We want people to know that we are here on campus, we do have events and we are here to teach our culture to those who want to learn,” she said.
“JSA’s mission is to educate others in order to promote tolerance for all diversity groups,” Cooper said. “We are not just a religious organization but a group of strong individuals who are working to better our personal community and beyond.”
To learn more about Furman JSA, visit the group’s Instagram page at “furmanuniversityjsa” or contact co-presidents Lydia Morris and Morgan Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.