By Sergio Carmona – South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Sholom Neistein is making history while serving as the first Jewish president of the Student Government Association at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus.
Neistein, 21, said being voted as president on April 3 was meaningful for his family.
“It was a very big deal for my mother and my father and my grandparents were extremely happy and proud of me,” he said. “My brother-in-law called me up and he said ‘You really inspired me. You really changed my opinion on Americans. Now I really think they finally can accept somebody who’s Jewish in a diverse population.”
Neistein, a North Miami Beach resident who’s double majoring in psychology and biology and is a junior with senior credits, feels his presidency brings a sense of pride to the school’s Jewish population. His term began on May 4 and ends next summer. He hopes the school will be able to observe Jewish History Month in January.
“In previous years we really haven’t had anything for the Jewish population, especially on this campus, so since we control Student Programming Council’s budget, I ask that that they help produce two events for Jewish History Month,” he said.
Neistein’s collegiate GPA is 3.9 and he has received numerous honors and awards and contributed to several organizations. His list of activities include volunteering for Chai Lifeline from 2003-06 and serving as president of FIU’s Chabad Organization from 2007-08. He plans to create more outreach, exposure and funding for the school’s Jewish organizations as well as reducing the apathy among the Jewish students this upcoming academic year.
“In the past, Hillel has moved off campus I guess because of the apathy of many Jewish students because this is a commuter campus and a commuter school really, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that apathy has reigned the day,” he said. “That’s got to change.”
Neistein also plans to embrace people of all races, ethnicities and religions in the campus.
“This is an embrace-all experience,” he said. “I have learned that communication and dialogue with other ethnicities is the best way to bring about peer conciliatory means and this campus is a prototype for the world to really look upon because, no matter whether you’re Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim, I get along with almost every single person on this campus.”
Rebecca Dinar, coordinator of external relations for FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus, said Neistein wouldn’t have become president if he had not been able to competently represent all kinds of groups.
“FIU has almost 40 ,000 students in total and it’s a minority serving institution,” she said. “We have a strong Jewish life in our campus and it’s not surprising we have a Jewish president and he wouldn’t be the president if he couldn’t represent everybody.”