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New Jewish Student Union celebrates diversity of Wesley's school community

Members of the newly formed Jewish Student Union

Wesley’s newest student-led group, the Wesley Jewish Student Union, or ‘Jewnion’, celebrates Jewish culture and the diversity of our school community.

At Wesley College, where students are encouraged to find their passion and their voice, student-led groups provide a space to explore and advocate for a variety of causes. Run by students, with staff support and participation, there are several well-established groups across the campuses, including sustainability; Wesmob, our group for students and staff interested in learning about the strengths and challenges facing Indigenous Australians; and LGBTQIA+ pride groups.

The newest, the Wesley Jewish Student Union – or ‘Jewnion’ as it has affectionately become known – was formed by two Year 12 students, Silas Mitchell and 2022 School Captain, Jack Edwards, at the St Kilda Road Campus. The purpose of the group is to celebrate Jewish culture within the school community, teaching Jewish and non-Jewish members alike about Judaism, its history and its people. As a Uniting Church in Australia associated school, one of Wesley’s keys principles is to rejoice in the diversity of life-giving faiths, cultures and languages.

‘We were inspired to set up this student group as Wesley, at its core, has always been an incredibly diverse community – right from the very first cohort who began in 1866, Wesley has had Jewish students in attendance,’ says Jack.

Silas Mitchell and Jack Edwards, founders of Jewnion

80 members meet every fortnight for fun and informative activities including ‘Yiddish word of the week’ games, music, food, plays and competitions.

‘We are hoping to build a strong sense of identity and pride for the Jewish community within Wesley and provide more opportunities to celebrate Jewish culture on campus. For non-Jewish members, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender or culture – it’s about connecting to the community and having fun,’ adds Silas.

Jack and Silas have received support from the College leadership and staff to help establish and promote the Jewish Student Union, most notably from the College Pastor, Kaylea Fearn. ‘Wesley culture is embracing and inclusive and I’m thrilled that Wesley celebrates and welcomes students of any, and all, religions. Spiritual expression and belonging is so important for our young people to harness and explore and Jewnion is a wonderful example of this in action.’ Kaylea says.

Jack and Silas are thrilled with how warmly the Jewnion has been embraced by the College community in its first year.

‘We hope to see other student-led religious or spiritual groups start at the College to enrich our understanding and appreciation of other cultures, as Jewnion is seeking to do,’ says Jack.

Jewnion will continue under the leadership of 2023 student leader, Laura Nayman.