Jewish Student Association’s “JGala” uplifts Georgetown community, Jewish and non-Jewish students alike

Published April 2, 2024

Illustration by Deborah Han

Music is blasting, and a chocolate fountain is running as students giddily sprint up the stairs to be greeted by a lively DJ and dance circle. But unlike most Georgetown formals, this dance circle will build to a Jewish Horah, a tradition where family and friends dance in circles, by the end of the night. 

On March 15, the Jewish Students Association (JSA), hosted its second annual Jewish Gala at the National Union Building in Penn Quarter. Both Jewish and non-Jewish students attended the gala to celebrate Jewish culture and heritage through dancing, food, and music. Overall, students really enjoyed the gala. 

Simona Balagula (SFS ’27), a member of JSA, felt that the event provided a strong community outlet for Jewish students. “I thought it was a wonderful way to uplift the community,” she said. 

The event’s planning officially began in November, but members of JSA have been thinking about the event since last year’s formal in March 2023. 

JSA Special Events and External Events Chair, Zach Samuel (CAS ’26), explained how the event was largely guided by the failures and successes of the previous JSA formal held last year, its first large community event since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In our feedback from last year’s event in Copley Hall, many students suggested that we move the formal off-campus to make it feel like a more serious and unique event. This was the largest difference between this year and last year, but other than location and theme, the formal was largely the same as we had it last year,” Samuel said. 

In January, JSA created a committee of members to plan JSA’s second formal. The committee acquired a full sound system and DJ booth, decorations, table settings, and snacks for everyone attending the event.“Their contributions were invaluable to the event’s success,” Samuel added. 

The event, although hosted by Jewish Life, encouraged students of all religious backgrounds to attend the event and learn more about Jewish faith and culture.

“I loved it!” Chase Dobson (CAS’27), a non-Jewish student who came to the gala, said. “ I think it was a great Friday night activity. The food was snackable, and the music was great. Most of all, the atmosphere was relaxed, and I got to know some cool people.” 

 As a non-Jewish student, Dobson was initially nervous about attending the event. 

I felt excited on my way to the event, but I also felt slightly nervous, because I wasn’t sure whether it would feel as if I were intruding on an event intended for Jewish students. However, my friends re-assured me that I was welcome, and I definitely felt so,” he said. 

Students who attended explained that they have found a safe space within the JSA community through events like this. 

It’s honestly so comforting and rewarding to know that I have a strong community of peers that I can spend time with both Jewish and non-Jewish alike,” Balagula said.  “I think one of the greatest things about JSA at Georgetown is that it’s filled with such a diverse and strong group of people who are just bonded together by wanting to learn more about the Jewish culture.”

Attendees felt that the gala was an important occasion that allowed Jewish students on campus to celebrate their identity.  

“My favorite part of JGala was seeing so many Jewish students in the same room. I truly love everyone in Georgetown’s Jewish community,” Samuel said. 


Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to correctly identify the host of the event.

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