At football practice from left to right, Brian Stone a senior from Farmington Hills and Ryan Glueck a junior from Pepper Pike, Ohio discuss the next play.
As the Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center at Michigan State University (MSU) undergoes its expansion, Hillel's visibility among the MSU Jewish student community is also growing rapidly, thanks in part to Hillel's growing athletic program.
According to Sam Plotkin, Hillel's athletic chair and a sophomore at MSU, students are coming to Hillel because of the athletic program. Plotkin said a segment of the Jewish student body whose interests lie outside the organization's cultural and religious programming, want to attend games and participate in a variety of sports through Hillel.
"The Jewish Student Union board is now reaching out to a diverse group of students," Plotkin said. "A kid who comes to a cultural event might not come out for sports and vice versa."
This year, the MSU Hillel football team recently defeated the University of Michigan Hillel team, 26-7, in an annual game played October 26, the weekend of the MSU-Michigan football game.
MSU lost last year's game, but Jason Rudy, 20, of West Bloomfield, a junior at MSU, said this year's team was more competitive, more focused.
"We had a lot more talent than U-M had, and there was a lot of emotion and rivalry between the two schools. The game was definitely heated but even with the intense rivalry, everyone had a good time."
More students are getting involved in intramural sports and are attending monthly broomball games and show interest in the upcoming three-on-three Slade Matzahballers basketball tournament.
More than 40 students showed up to play broomball at the MSU Munn Ice Arena.
Still, Plotkin said he wants to incorporate an even wider range of athletic events, including paintball and also trips to professional sports games.
MSU Hillel athletics received a boost in November from the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and from MSU alumnus Ed Slade that could help finance Plotkin's goals. Slade's donation to MSU Hillel established the Slade Family Sports Fund will be used for athletic purposes.
Plotkin said sports programming began earlier this year, which led to increased participation. He said word of mouth and a comprehensive e-mail list got the message to more students.
"Jewish students that I haven't seen all year came out for the MSU versus U-M Hillel football game," he said.
Jason Rudy said he noticed many new faces at a recent Shabbat dinner honoring the football team.
Story submitted by MSU Hillel.