Hillel, SPECTRUM and Elon University’s LGBTQ office joined forces to send three students to the 2012 National Union of Jewish LGBT Students (NUJLS) conference, Advocating Our Identities. Hillel director Nancy Luberoff said she was determined to figure out a way to get students to go to the conference, held at American University, from the moment she learned about it. Luberoff reached out to SPECTRUM and offered for Hillel to pay the travel and registration fee. She said she was happy to have two non-Jewish students willing to participate in the conference.

“I think it’s important for all organizations on campus to have good relationships,” said junior Lauren Clapp, who is invovled in SPECTRUM and attended the conference.

The collaboration revealed opportunities for student intellectual development, according to Luberoff. “I think that one of the university’s top strategic goals has to do with diversity,” Luberoff said.  “For me, it is so powerful that we have non-Jewish students willing to immerse themselves for a weekend in a conference primarily for Jewish students — not as an intellectual exercise, but on a personal level.”

There  are many partnerships between  Hillel and LGBTQ organizations across the country, according to Luberoff. She said partnerships come from a shared experience of oppression, discrimination and invisible identity.

“The most important message for me is that, particularly in the United States, Jews have aligned themselves with many struggles for social justice and for human rights,” Luberoff said. “I thought it was really important for students here to explore gay rights from a spiritual perspective. That’s something that’s very difficult to find, and in talking to them, they got that.  I think they were overwhelmed by that part of the conference.”

Kirstin Ringelberg, coordinator of the LGBTQ office, co-adviser of SPECTRUM and coordinator of the art history program, said that conferences like NUJLS in Feburary are important in helping students explore personal identities.

“(An important idea) we have on campus is understanding identity as intersectional, that there’s an identity in each person that makes them separate from the rest,” Ringelberg said. “So you’re never just black, you’re never just Jewish or you’re never just gay, but rather you’re an intersection of all those different kinds of identities.”

Clapp said she found the conference fun and informative.  One session in particular gave her some tangible ideas of things to bring to campus which she hopes to use in the future.

“It’s important that we find resources for students to attend and participate because they come back to campus with a really positive energy for campus,” Luberoff said. “It really benefits (everyone at Elon).”

Clapp said she is happy to see that a good relationship exists between Spectrum and Hillel.

Luberoff said she hopes to send students from Elon to the NUJLS conference every year, and would like to continue to have Hillel subsidize their participation.

“I think it’s really important that Elon students and the Elon campus have national visibility at conferences like this,” Luberoff said.