a class at the
21, of Toledo,
20, of Oak
Park at the
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
hile the first week of school at any
college comes with a barrage of lit-
erature and introductions to pro-
grams and groups, at the
University of Michigan it also brings strange ani-
mals bearing candy — and a new message.
"Members of the Jewish Resource Center
(JRC) will be out there, dressed like stuffed cows
and kangaroos, meeting new students and most
importantly spreading JAM," JRC program
director Rabbi Aaron Eisemann says of the
group's year-old program, Jewish Awareness
While the focus of the seven-year-old center
has always been reaching out to Jewish students,
JAM has become the catchphrase that encom-
passes all JRC Jewish awareness activities.
"Spreading JAM" is the act of sharing that
awareness with others.
"Being Jewish has always been an important
part of my life," says Michelle Slonim, 21, of
New York. "One of the reasons I chose to come
to U-M was because of its strong Jewish com-
When Slonim, now a senior, was near the
end of her first semester at U-M and hadn't yet
felt the hoped-for Jewish connection, she decid-
ed to sign up for a JRC-sponsored trip to Israel.
She found that traveling with a group of Jewish
classmates helped her to "connect spiritually and
Jewishly" with them.
She began attending JRC programs and also
helping other Jewish students find the JRC as a
place to learn and be with peers. In fact, her
involvement reached the level that, when the
"Spread JAM" campaign began in September
2001, Slonim found herself dressed good-
naturedly like a stuffed chicken, dancing around
and handing out suckers and JRC pamphlets.
Rabbi Eisemann was nearby wearing a lion suit.
A Comfortable Place
The JRC is a program of Congregation Machon
LTorah: The Jewish Learning Network, a tradi-
tional Orthodox synagogue based in Oak Park.
But, says JRC President Lindsey Kessler, the
group welcomes kids "from any walk of
On campus, the JRC "is just a comfortable
place to ask questions and be with other Jewish
kids," says Kessler, 20, of West Bloomfield. "For
a lot of college students, its hard to have
Judaism in their lives. At the JRC, no one's look-
ing for any kind of commitment and no one