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Hillel Starts Week-Long Jewish Identity Series

By Mary LOUISE Kelly

With a lecturer about "Being Jewish at Harvard" by Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz and a bagel-and-lox brunch this weekend, Harvard/Radcliffe Hillel kicked off a week-long series of dinners, talks and festivities aimed at emphasizing Jewish identity.

"Chai Week" was created to explore topics in Jewish religion and culture and to attract Jewish students who do not regularly attend Hillel sponsored activities, organizers said.

"Just like every other group on campus, Hillel is very concerned with outreach," said Laura E. Fein '91, chair of Chai week. "I feel strongly that ethnic identity is extremely important to people."

In his talk, Dershowitz emphasized the extensive contributions Jews have made in the United States and said that people can be part of the Harvard community while still maintaining their Jewish identities, Fein said.

Fein said that she hoped the activities in Chai Week would help dispel Hillel's reputation for being unfriendly toward people who do not attend regularly.

"A lot of people feel uncomfortable just walking into the building," said Amanda L. Maisels '93 a coordinator of Chai Week. "Maybe they do not feel they're religious enough or are knowledgable enough about Judaism."

Aaron J. Snow '93 acknowledged that Hillel has a stereotype of being a closed-door society but said he hoped more Jewish students would look into the many programs that Hillel offers.

"Part of the purpose of Chai week is to get rid of the misconception," said Snow, who added that he did not attend Hillel programs regularly until his friend encouraged him to participate. "It really is a program for all Jews."

Fein estimated that there were 250-300 people at both this weekend's events, and she added that a significant percentage of those were either non-Jews or Jews whom she did not recognize as Hillel regulars.

Besides the talk and the bagel brunch this weekend, Chai week will include talks on such topics as Judaism and homosexuality, interdating and intermarriage. The week will culminate with a region-wide dance party.

Chai, the Hebrew word for "life," is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning "Jewish education."

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