Nepean High School Corner: Nepean’s Jewish Student Union

The exterior of Nepean high school
Nepean High School has a Jewish Student Union which aims to create a safe space for Jewish culture in the school. File photo by Charlie Senack.

By Nina Beck

Nepean High School is home to a diverse number of clubs, each one allowing for students to access enriching opportunities, events, and like-minded communities.

One such club is the Jewish Student Union (JSU), a student-run club started to create a space to celebrate Jewish culture within the school. 

In earlier years, the club was led by community member Rabbi Rotenberg, who would regularly run programs for students in the school. Since the pandemic, Nepean’s students have taken a more prominent role in running the club, with the role of club heads being currently occupied by Grade 12 students Deena Friedman and Shaina Teitlebaum. Deena and Shaina have taken charge by leading the club in active lessons and discussions about Judaism, Jewish holidays and more.

Outside of JSU, the pair are both vocal advocates against antisemitism in the OCDSB. Deena has been particularly involved in speaking out against antisemitism within the school board, at events such as RISE UP Ottawa, making sure that community members and policy makers are hearing directly from students about what happens in their schools. Meanwhile, Shaina interns with groups to ensure that schools are a safe space for Jewish students. Both students feel strongly about the importance of recognizing and calling out antisemitism. As Deena puts it, “Some people’s approach to antisemitism is to not talk about it because that will bring too much attention to it, and we really disagree with that.”

However, JSU’s contributions extend far beyond simply calling out antisemitism within the school community. Shaina describes the club as, “a space where we all have something in common, a common culture. It’s not about what happened to us in the past, but about love and community.”

While outside of the club the pair are vocal antisemitism activists, within JSU they work hard to make the club a space for fun and sharing of culture rather than discussing difficult subjects, such as with their Chanukah party held last year and their participation in Nepean’s celebration of diversity. They aim to share their culture and the many different aspects of Judaism with those interested.

All in all, Nepean’s JSU aims to spread education, love, and learning. Deena and Shaina want to welcome anyone in Nepean into their club — regardless of political beliefs, religion, or race — and look forward to continuing to share their culture with the school community.

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