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Jewish Group Teaches Members How To Be a Man

By Alexis B. Offen, Crimson Staff Writer

They're gun-toting, chicken-slaughtering, beef-eating Harvard men. And they're Jewish.

They're also members of Hillel's Men's Group, a student organization that seeks to bring Jewish men together to "explore Judaism and gender-related issues."

Lofty mission statements aside--the Men's Group is not for the sensitive, touch-feely type of guy.

Just last month members of the group headed out to a local firing range in Bedford to learn the finer points of riflery and see who among them had the most accurate aim.

"It was unique," said member Steven P. Schwartzberg '01. "Having never touched a firearm before, [it] was interesting in itself."

By organizing "manly" outings for its members, Men's Club officers say they are filling a void in the Jewish community.

"These are the events that Hillel wouldn't sponsor themselves, so we take it up," said the group's co-chair David Wichs '00.

And unlike Hillel, members of the Men's Group claim that it doesn't take itself quite as seriously.

"Most Hillel activities have a point," You go and you learn something or they take you on a retreat and teach you leadership," explains Lev Polinsky '99-'00, a co-chair of the group.

"Men's Group activities tend to be less edifying and more fun," he adds.

Still, the events can often be educational.

Two years ago, the group watched a rabbi kill a live chicken in his driveway, in part to familiarize themselves with Jewish slaughtering laws.

This past spring, the club went on a trip to the zoo; along the way, they learned to distinguish between the kosher and un-kosher caged animals.

While the Men's Group strives to promote a sense of fraternity, it is open to all College undergraduates. Women say they join the group for the activities and often play a critical role in the group's leadership.

Tammy A. Hepps '00, for example, has been involved with the group since its formation two years ago. She is currently the group's treasurer and serves as its liaison to Hillel, primarily explaining bureaucratic procedures to Men's Group officers.

"They're nice guys, they just needed help," Hepps says. "If they got rid of me they wouldn't have an organization."

Despite these inclusive policies, the Men's Group still embraces traditional notions about testosterone and the male psyche.

"Their mission is to be very stereotypical," Hepps says.

That much was evident during Hanukkah when the Men's Group sponsored a latke-eating contest, in which members competed to see who could consume the potato pancakes the fastest.

Before an audience of 100, gathered at Hillel for dinner and celebration, four men stuffed their faces furiously. Finally, a winner was announced, and his manhood firmly established.

Standing up with his arms raised proudly in the air, the victorious Ben Z. Galper '02, who is also a Crimson editor, proclaimed, "Today I am a man!"

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