MADISON — It was a big, empty room, with one guy quietly studying in the corner until the whole space was overwhelmed with more than 100 young ladies chatting, laughing and making lots and lots of hamantaschen.
About 100 members of Madison’s Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, and about 40 other students, gathered on a Tuesday evening, March 3, 2020. The University of Wisconsin – Madison students all poured into Madison Hillel after a day of classes to make Purim’s signature cookie.
They made 1,000 cookies in all; some they took home while the rest were used for Shabbat at Madison Hillel.
The event was for bonding among sisters, said sophomore Kasey Santoro, vice president of sisterhood for the sorority.
“I love A E Phi,” said Santoro, of Boca Raton, Florida. That’s the shorthand reference to Alpha Epsilon Phi, which is one of several heavily Jewish sororities on campus. Santoro said her sophomore sister class at A E Phi consists of 67 young women.
“I grew up going to sleepaway camp. I knew I wanted a campy feel,” she said. A E Phi provides it.
Just so you know, they were doing great, but they weren’t doing it like Israelis. In Israel, you never see jam in hamantaschen, according to campus emissary Gal Ben Yishay. Israelis are more likely to choose hamantaschen with halva, pistachios or chocolate. Ben Yishay is on campus for two years, a project of Madison Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel. (Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel assist with similar emissaries at Hillel Milwaukee.)
“I love it,” said hamantaschen-making sophomore Sarah Keilman of Westchester, New York, when asked about A E Phi. “Coming to such a large school in the Midwest, it made the campus feel smaller.”
Sophomore Jordan Hammer of New Jersey agreed, saying she appreciated the “sense of sisterhood.” As for making hamantaschen, freshman Stella Frank of Los Angeles advised that “it’s harder than it looks.”
Olivia Metzger, a Marlboro, New Jersey freshman, recalled as she folded the cookie named for Haman, “I did this in Hebrew school a couple years ago.” Jamie Musoff of Scarsdale, New York piped in: “I did it for my temple.”
Musoff echoed what others approached at random said: “I’ve really found a group of girls that can be a second family here.”