Antisemitism is a very real challenge on college campuses across the region, and Butler University in Indiana is no exception. JSU alum Madison Pines was recently named Hillel president, and in addition to promoting Jewish engagement on campus, she is taking a leading role in combating antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment.
Where did she get the knowledge – and confidence – to stand up for what she believes in?
“When faced with antisemitism or religious adversity,” says Madison, “I am able to use the knowledge that JSU empowered me [with] to advocate for myself and to advocate for my beliefs.”
Madison’s “training” for her new leadership role began on a warm fall day in 2016, when she walked through the doors of the Jewish Student Union club at Marquette Sr. High School in St. Louis for the first time.
“I didn’t know if this was for me, if these were my people,” she says. “But after that first meeting, I walked out of there and was like, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to come back!’”
Madison soon became a JSU regular, appreciating the opportunity to learn more about Judaism and Jewish values, while being part of a warm Jewish community within her school. From there, she participated in several ongoing educational programs, as well as a transformative summer trip to Israel on TJJ. These experiences gave her advocacy skills, as well as an understanding of, and connection to, the land of Israel.
Most importantly, JSU helped her launch what she calls a “new exploration of Judaism for which I’m forever grateful.”
Today, Madison’s commitment to Judaism that JSU helped facilitate is being strengthened in her leadership role on campus, and it is something she’s proud to call her own.
“I grew up in a family where I went to [Sunday] school, but JSU enhanced my knowledge of Judaism and increased my appetite to learn more,” she says. “And it wasn’t until I started JSU, and especially TJJ, that the reason I did it was because I wanted to learn more about my Judaism. Because this is something that is important to me – that I have the knowledge to carry on my Jewish culture.”
And in her new role, she’s “carrying on” that culture, and defending it, thanks to the pivotal Jewish experiences she had in her teenage years.
“The tools that JSU gave me – not only advocacy, but Jewish learning – are the tools that empower me in my position today,” she says.