Sermon Slam combines poetry and art in order to give voices to Jewish students

By Alicia Cherem

LAVI, a University of Maryland Jewish identity organization, hosted Sermon Slam May 4 to give students the opportunity to express themselves and be heard.

Sermon Slam centers around a different theme every year. This year’s theme was Shema, which means ‘hear’ in Hebrew. It is also a “very important” prayer in Judaism, according to sophomore psychology major Pamela Kekst.

Nine students performed slam poetry and nine others had artwork on display. Much of the poetry and art was revolved around topics such as students’ Jewish identities, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Kekst helped coordinate the event, which took place in the Pyon Su Room in Stamp. The room was filled with students sitting on the floor and crowding every corner.

“It is one of the biggest and most successful events that LAVI has hosted, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of keeping the tradition of the event going,” Kekst said.

While Kekst was happy with the way the event turned out, she had trouble getting the funding that was really needed.

“We had to change to a smaller room, because last year we barely even filled all the chairs,” Kekst said. “It was definitely a lot harder then I thought it would be.”

Sam Koralnik, a junior government and politics major, had never performed in front of a crowd before Sermon Slam, but decided to participate in case this was his last chance before graduating.

Koralnik performed a poem he titled, “The Exploration of Self, Self Disclosure and Self Discovery.” He said that his poem was a way for him to prove to himself that he had the ability to write his own material and perform it to a crowd.

“I was feeling really nervous before I got up there, but I was happy and grateful for the support that every single person gave me,” Koralnik said. “It was such an incredible event.”

Art pieces were displayed around the room and in the hallways. One depicted a man praying near a forest, holding Jewish prayer book or canvas with Hebrew letters on it, and a fragmented face on top.

Shoshanna Kott, a freshman public health science major, had a drawing of her father praying during a camping trip on display.

Kott said she chose to display the particular piece because nature makes her feel complete, and the drawing demonstrates how she feels about herself within Judaism. In regards to other artists and slammers, Kott said that she was in awe watching everyone “play their hearts and souls out,” and was grateful to be surrounded by such “emotionally intellectual” students.

Similarly, Kekst said that the “slammers and artists were phenomenal,” and that the content touched upon many different emotions.

“It was very personal and intimate,” Kekst said.

She placed a lot of emphasis on making sure that people understand that “everyone has different experiences with Judaism and everyone should have a place that they can be heard and listened to.”


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