Since its inception in 2014, the Jewish Bulldogs have been working to promote the GU Jewish community, and under the advisory of Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein, the Jewish chaplain on campus and a religious studies professor, the club has grown significantly in living out its mission.

Goldstein said the Jewish Bulldogs have evolved to not only promote fellowship but also create spaces to reflect upon what it means to be a modern-day Jew on a Catholic campus. Goldstein said that the weekly meetings are often spaces where Jewish students gather to share and learn more about their Jewish identity.

“We should never forget our past, but it's also good to explore what it means to be a Jew today,” Goldstein said. “Does it mean that we are involved with social justice?  Does it mean that we study theology?  Does it mean that we eat Shabbat dinners together, that we are in community? Does it mean that we help intergenerationally? All the things that make up what a community is, we need to explore.”

GU students Isaiah Krigel, Gabriela Marquis and Cassidy Gitelson have all been members of the organization since their first year at GU and agreed that the events and meetings hosted by Jewish Bulldogs have been valuable in developing their own Jewish identity. They noted that the club has been a place where they feel that they can embrace their Jewish identity without it being misunderstood.

“Judaism is a big part of my faith and what Judaism really to me means — community,” Krigel said. “Coming to Gonzaga, there wasn't a huge Jewish community but it definitely was there. Just growing that community has been great.”

Marquis and Gitelson particularly highlighted the retreat hosted by the Jewish Bulldogs last year and said it was an experience that allowed them to bond with other GU Jewish students and feel more grounded in their Jewish identity.

“It was one of the only spaces where I felt truly like I could just exhale, just be myself, and not have to worry, not have to explain anything,” Marquis said. “[In Jewish Bulldogs], I can make references to Jewish cultural or religious things and people just understand them [and] laugh. [I do] not feel that pressure to have to be explaining and defining who I am all the time.”

Krigel, Marquis, Gitelson and Goldstein said it is often difficult being Jewish at GU where they sometimes feel that their religious identity is not valued or understood among many students and faculty. 

This feeling coupled with the increased presence of white nationalist groups near Spokane, according to Marquis and Goldstein, makes being Jewish particularly challenging and is why they value the space and events hosted on campus by Jewish Bulldogs.

“I am reminded constantly how many white nationalist, antisemitic hate groups there are all around us, and it can sometimes be mixed with the general feeling that we're perceived as a community or a culture that's no longer really in existence,” Marquis said. “That's a dangerous place to be. The more presence Jews have on campus, the less likelihood there is that we do run into issues with antisemitism.”

Goldstein, who teaches multiple classes related to Jewish culture and religion, said she sees the power of education as being an effective means of combating antisemitism and ignorance and is grateful for some university support for this educational work.

“We are one of those places that needs to grow and learn not just about Jews, but about people of color, about Muslims, about Hindus,” Goldstein said. “While I'm really proud to be part of the Jesuit Catholic humanistic tradition, there's ways in which the Jesuit Catholic humanistic tradition can also be more expansive.”

Krigel, Marquis and Gitelson also said that they see the work of the Jewish Bulldogs as a counter to the ignorance present on campus around Jewish identity and said this was one of the reasons why they are so excited about the growth of the club.

“It's really important to show people that Judaism is a real religion that is still practiced and active to this day and that antisemitism is extremely painful and hurtful to real people that are still here,” Gitelson said. “I feel like a lot of people have never really met a Jewish person. It's important to make ourselves known and seen and create the narrative for ourselves.”

According to Goldstein, one important way the Jewish Bulldogs is expanding its outreach and becoming more known is through the celebration of High Holy Days services on campus. These services, which are the pinnacle of the Jewish liturgical year, will be held for the first time at GU.

Goldstein, Krigel and Gitelson said that this is a very meaningful step for GU’s Jewish community because it means students can celebrate these religious traditions without traveling off-campus and will be able to participate with each other in a place that many of them call home.

“​​I went to Seattle this past weekend for a special musical Shabbat and had some time to reflect outside of Spokane and GU,” Goldstein said. “I came away with this very excited feeling that, like I don't have to pack a bag this year to celebrate the High Holy Days. [I am] celebrating the High Holy Days in my home, in my workplace.”

Goldstein, Krigel, Marquis and Gitelson also said that the presence of the Torah, which the university received last fall, was another important step of growth for the Jewish Bulldogs and credited it for the ability to celebrate the High Holy Day services.

The Torah, according to Goldstein and Marquis, is the heart of Jewish religious and cultural identity. They said the presence of the Torah for the Jewish Bulldogs means that they are able to honor specific religious traditions but has also become a symbol for the community to unite around.

“We don't have a lot of symbols that we display all the time,” Marquis said. “But the Torah is this very physical presence of Judaism, and it's one of our only real, tangible manifestations of our religion. To have one on campus, it really designates that we have a place.”

Goldstein, Marquis, Krigel, and Gitelson believe that the Jewish Bulldogs should not be the only organization on campus meant to promote Jewish community and education, and that in this time of increased antisemitism, it is the role of everyone at the university to stand up to hate.

However, they also said they are proud of the community that the Jewish Bulldogs have formed and are grateful for the university for valuing safe spaces for cultural and religious identities.

“All cultures and religions have their own experiences, and having the Jewish Bulldogs creates a safe space for Jews to share those experiences with one another," Gitelson said, "On a broader scale, part of Gonzaga’s mission is to cultivate growth for people in all aspects of their life, including culturally and spiritually, and having these spaces creates an environment of acceptance and unity.”

Noah April-Sokol is a news editor. Follow him on Twitter: @noah_sokol03.

News Editor

Noah is a sophomore from St. Louis, Missouri and reported for the Bulletin during his freshman year. He sees storytelling and relationship building as an essential dimension of justice, which he plans to pursue in his work as a news editor this semester.