By Joanna Katz
Hundreds of Jewish college students from all over Southern California are getting ready to dance the night away at the newly remodeled Club Element in Hollywood as part of the first annual Southern California Jewish College Night. Initiated by outreach interns at the University of California, Santa Barbara Hillel, the event, scheduled for Thursday, April 14, is the largest Jewish recruitment event to hit the Los Angeles region this year. Already backed by several local and national organizations, including Santa Barbara Hillel, Los Angeles Hillel Council, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Forest Foundation, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Jewstar.com and Platinum Events, this night will allow students to build a connection to their Jewish roots while incorporating their passion for hitting the clubs.
It is difficult for people in their twenties to maintain a strong Jewish identity, and the organizers of this program hope to bridge the gap between maintaining one's Jewish identity and the need for social interaction. The Southern California Jewish College Night will allow students who would not otherwise meet each other to network in a safe, social setting. Students will build contacts at other schools and may be able to collaborate on future regional programs.
"This type of event is perfect to target the young Jewish crowd," says Steven Linde, a recent graduate of the University of Miami and co-founder of an online Jewish networking site, Jewstar.com. "We throw parties like this all the time in Miami, and it's great to see them happening on the West Coast."
Another cosponsor, The Forest Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Forest Hospitals, refreshes Jewish community life in several cities nationwide, including Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Berkeley and New York. The foundation's staff focuses on the development of existing and innovative Jewish programs as well as non-Jewish community projects.
Besides Santa Barbara Hillel's outreach interns, the event was coordinated by Platinum Events, a full-service event marketing and production company in Los Angeles, specializing in the bar and nightclub industries. Scott Paletz, senior events producer for Platinum Events and a 2001 alum of the University of Southern California, gladly jumped on board the event.
"Having legitimate event promotion and a hip club vibe for the event is exactly what we needed to make this program a success," said Hannah Laiken, a sophomore at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who also helped coordinate the event with the outreach interns. "We want to target every Jewish college-aged student in the Southern California area."
To accomplish this, the interns gained support from other campuses and Hillels in the region, including UCLA, USC, California State University-Northridge, Santa Monica College, Beach Hillel, University of California, Riverside, Loyola Marymount University, San Diego State University, University of California, San Diego, and Claremont McKenna College. Each campus utilizes three or four student promoters in addition to its Hillel staff to get the word out about the event, and they hope to see their hard work pay off with a strong turnout on Thursday.
"We have been working really hard on taking Jewish social events to the next level for a few months now and it is a great feeling to finally see everything come together," said Aaron Small, one of the outreach interns at Santa Barbara Hillel. "All the organizations have been so supportive, and we really just want everyone to come away from the program with a positive memory of the event."
Joanna Katz is a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara and an outreach intern at Santa Barbara Hillel.