Many Cal Poly students do not know about one of the fastest growing clubs on campus. Hillel, the Jewish student organization in San Luis Obispo, has been at Cal Poly for over 15 years and has drastically increased its membership in the past two years.

“Where we used to get 20 students coming to events, we now often get about 100 at our (monthly) Shabbat dinners,” said Jeff Pathman, Hillel president and computer engineering senior.

Shabbat dinners are one of the many events that members of Hillel organize and participate in. The dinners celebrate the Jewish Sabbath on Fridays. Shabbat dinners are the most popular events Hillel hosts. The students offer a service followed by a kosher meal. The dinners are held on the first Friday of each month and the service begins at 6:30 p.m.

The Hanukkah-themed Shabbat in December brought over 120 people from Cal Poly and the surrounding community.

Hillel is not solely a Cal Poly organization, it also offers memberships to Cuesta students and all people interested in joining. Participants do not have to be Jewish to join.

“A goal of Hillel is to provide a meaningful Jewish experience for people in college,” said Pathman. “It is also our mission.”

Having a large and diverse membership means that the Hillel board must organize a variety of events for the different club members and their specific interests. The club holds events like pizza-making, bonfires, movie nights and brings speakers (including comedians) to Cal Poly.

“All events have to target a specific audience. Certain members will come to see speakers, others come only to social events, some only come to the Shabbat dinners,” said Shaina Fox, Hillel secretary and agricultural business sophomore.

A club goal for the year has been to have an event for every Jewish holiday. There are many. Today marks Tu B’Shvat, known as “the new year for trees.” To honor agriculture, it is common for Jewish people to consume fruit and plant trees in abundance. According to Pathman, Israel was the only country to have a net increase of trees going into the 20th century.

Hillel is also currently working on a project to honor Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance for the Holocaust. The students have collected 60,000 pennies for a display in the University Union. Each penny represents 100 Holocaust victims. The display will be set up in April.

“The goal is to make people understand the number of how many people died,” Pathman said.

Tonight Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Hasbara Fellowships and StandWithUs bring guest speaker Khaled Abu Toameh to Cal Poly. Toameh is an award-winning journalist for the Jerusalem Post. Though Toameh is Palestinian, he writes mainly to a Jewish audience. He will share his beliefs about Hamas in the new Palestinian region, the Gaza post disengagement, and the future of the region.

“One of the interesting things (about Toameh) is his prospective, being an Arab with Israeli citizenship,” said Josh Kob, Cal Poly political science graduate. Kob saw Toameh speak in Israel last year.

Toameh speaks tonight in building 52, room B05 at 8 p.m. The event is free. For more information, visit www.HasbaraFellowships.com.

The Hillel Board meets every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in UU 218 to discuss upcoming events. Check out www.hillelofsanluisobispo.org for more information about the organization.

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