As president of the Jewish Student Union, Laura Gottlieb
'02 is dedicated to getting other students involved in the organization.
Leading the Jewish Student Union
When Laura Gottlieb ’02 was elected president of the Jewish Student Union (JSU) last December, she became JSU’s first woman president. “It isn’t that women haven’t had a voice or haven’t been included,” says Gottlieb, a political science and public relations major in the College of Arts and Sciences and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “JSU has just always been male-run since it was started in the early 1990s.”|
The December election changed that dramatically: Now all of JSU’s officers are women. “It’s nice being the first woman president because it shows that women are taking their place in the Jewish world, where so many things have been male-dominated,” says Gottlieb, who had previously served as the organization’s programming vice president.
Being involved in Jewish community life is nothing new to the Cleveland native, who was a member of a Jewish youth group in high school and became active in Hillel during her first year at SU. That year she made her first trip to Israel, which proved to be a turning point in her life. “Being with other Jewish students on that trip gave me the feeling that we shared a common bond,” she says. “I knew from that point on that Jewish communal work was what I wanted to do. It has become my passion.”
Gottlieb returned to Israel last winter as one of nine American students selected to attend the week-long World Union of Jewish Students conference, held in Tiberias. “It was the first year America sent a Hillel delegation,” she says. “It was very exciting to be chosen.”
Sivan Kaminsky, executive director of Hillel at SU, nominated Gottlieb to attend the conference. “Laura has incredible leadership qualities. When this opportunity came up, I thought it matched her skills and interests well,” Kaminsky says. “She is such an asset to our student community.”
Gottlieb’s goals as JSU president are to share her love of Judaism with others, get them actively involved with JSU, and help them grow in their Jewish faith. Since Gottlieb took office, JSU has renewed publication of its newspaper, Hakol; reinvigorated Kol Simchah, a group that sings at Hillel events; and founded CusePac, the Syracuse Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is the local chapter of the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee. One of the biggest projects she hopes to see completed is a new home for Hillel, to be built at the corner of Walnut Place and Harrison Street.
Gottlieb also has been involved in one of the union’s most visible endeavors, bringing renowned Jewish speakers to campus. JSU welcomed television personalities Henry Winkler and Louis Black to the University this past year, and hopes to book another big-name entertainer to speak in the fall. Bringing a famous personality to campus involves much more than just booking the talent—advertising, security, and finding and preparing a venue are all parts of the job. “It takes a lot of time,” she says. “I live and breathe that show for weeks, getting it ready.”
Gottlieb sees the hard work as a training ground for her professional career in public relations. “I’ve learned everything from people skills to leadership to coordination of activities,” she says. “I want to go into Jewish communal service, perhaps raising money for a nonprofit organization, or working as a lobbyist. What I’ve learned working with Hillel and JSU is a good foundation for what I want to do with my life.”
Even in her spare time, Gottlieb finds ways to benefit the Jewish community in Central New York. In January, she started a local chapter of Young Judaea, a national youth group sponsored by Hadassah. Children in fifth through seventh grades have joined the group, which meets every other Sunday. She recently took 12 group members on a Young Judaea retreat to Sproat Lake near Poughkeepsie. “I love working with kids,” Gottlieb says. “When I was in high school, my youth group defined my place in Judaism. I want to do the same thing for these kids.”