Following the decision to disassociate from Hillel International, Swarthmore Hillel has officially changed their name to Swarthmore Kehilah, the Hebrew word for “community.” The change was preceded by an open discussion with Swarthmore’s Jewish community last Monday, March 16, and a three-day online vote.
The name change comes a week after Hillel International threatened legal action over Swarthmore Hillel’s upcoming event, “Social Justice Then and Now: Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement.” The event, which will go on as planned Tuesday, March 24, and Wednesday, March 25, will feature four Jewish activists discussing their experiences in the civil rights movement, racial organizing today, and social justice in Israel and Palestine. Responses to the event, and Hillel International’s warnings, were mixed. Students of all political leanings expressed frustration with the nature of discussions about Israel and Palestine on campus, but had diverging views on how to move forward.
Swarthmore Hillel opened submissions for new names on March 18, and three days of voting resulted in a tie between “Ruach” (the name used by Swarthmore’s Jewish community before it affiliated with Hillel) and “Kehilah.” A run off vote on Sunday resulted in Kehilah being chosen as the group’s new title.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be writing with the new name of Swarthmore’s Jewish community – a name that together, we all chose for ourselves,” Kehilah President Sarah Revesz ‘17 wrote in an email to Jewish students on campus. “It’s been wonderful to see how many people have gotten involved in this process over the past week. We had a strong voter turnout and it makes me glad to see so many people taking the steps to make this community your own.”
Swarthmore Kehilah will continue to host their weekly services and Shabbat dinner, and will soon be launching sign-ups for its annual Passover seders and food co-op. You may read more about this week’s social justice event here.