Each year, the Pugh Center clubs at the College hold a myriad of events celebrating the many cultures and religions of students on campus. In recent years, members of Colby’s South Asian Society (SAS), Muslim Society (CMS), and Hillel have communicated with the South Asian, Muslim, and Jewish communities at other colleges to broaden cultural communities that are otherwise difficult to come across in rural Maine.
Maaheen Shaikh `25, Head of Public Relations for Colby’s SAS, has been the point person for all communication between Colby’s SAS and Bowdoin’s South Asian Student’s Association (SASA) this past year.
“I’m the first person from our SAS to talk to their SASA, and it’s a super cute story how I met Bhadra, our link to Bowdoin SAS,” Shaikh said.
“I actually met Bhadra when I went to Bowdoin for Eid. She was so kind and when I needed a place to go pray since I had come late to the celebration, she actually showed me where to go and waited for me, and we just kinda got to know each other,” she said.
Colby’s SAS hosted a few members of Bowdoin’s SASA this past October for their Diwali celebration, and Colby’s CMS hosted Bowdoin’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) last semester for Iftar. Despite the well-known sports rivalry between the colleges, the cultural clubs are forming inter-college communities.
“I think our own community here is really strong at Colby, but it’s nice to know there are other colleges with South Asian student associations because in a college in the middle of Maine, it feels like a big fishbowl sometimes, so it’s nice to see others that are also engaged with the culture and connect with them,” Shaikh explained.
In addition, the College hosts a yearly Shabbaton run by the Shabbaton fellow associated with the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, which is run out of Colby. This event is open to Jewish communities all over Maine, including those at Bowdoin, Bates, and the University of Maine.
“This year we invited Wellesley kids because they have been dealing with a lot of anti-semitism,” Sarah Gold `23, the Hillel president, said. Wellesley students have been driving the three hours from Wellesley, MA to Colby for Shabbat dinners because of safety concerns with hosting dinners on the Wellesley campus.
This year’s Shabbaton fellow is Martha Lieberman `24. To get people hyped for the event, which occurred during the weekend of Nov. 4 and 5, Lieberman sent out a bubbly email.
“What is the Shabbaton, you may ask? Well I’m here to tell you! The Fall Shabbaton will bring together students and community members from all over Maine for a weekend full of community, prayer, song, and inspiring learning!! There will be some AMAZING guests coming (Batya Levine and Rabbi Sandra Lawson!) They are both such cool people and it is such an amazing opportunity that they’re coming to Colby!! You can find out more information about the Shabbaton schedule HERE!! Everyone is welcome,” she wrote.
Just like the joint events with Colby and Bowdoin’s South Asian societies and Muslim societies, having an event where Jewish communities all over New England could come together helped people find comfort in their culture in a place with sparse cultural communities.
“I think it’s great to see so many different communities come together, and it makes me feel proud that the Colby Jewish community is able to help foster such vibrant Jewish life, especially in Maine where there aren’t so many Jewish people,” Gold said.
Colby’s SAS, CMS, and Hillel are only a subset of the many cultural clubs on the College’s campus that have collaborated with different schools and organizations across New England. Events like these help students leaving their cultural communities at home find new ones in places that they might least expect.
~ Mahika Gupta `23