Spotlight: Community Service Honoree Joanna Mesh Rice

How did you get involved with JHP while at Penn?

I got involved as a freshman. I had a friend who was older in my sorority who was involved and  she brought me to an event, and I immediately realized it seemed like a good way to be involved in a Jewish organization and do Jewish activities with my friends.

As the creator of JHP’s signature community service event, ‘PB&J-Athon’, what gave you the idea and when did you start it?

I started it as a Sophomore during the spring semester as a part of JHP’s Mitzvah Week. I felt like it was a really easy way to get people on Penn’s campus involved in helping those in need. I decided using College Green as the location because it is where everyone walks by, you just can’t miss it!

What is your favorite JHP memory from college? What were your favorite events and activities to participate in? Obviously PB&J is one!

(Laughs) Yes, definitely PB&J, going to friends Shabbat dinners and hosting my own. I remember we did a big break fast on Yom Kippur, JHP gave us all the food we needed it was really amazing. I also remember sushi making and fun events like that! I also remember Simcha Torah one year. The Rabbis were full of so much spirit, parading around campus celebrating the Torah.

How have you stayed involved in JHP since college?

I have been going to Taste of New York and have been a mentor for students and those the Rabbis have put me in touch with. I get coffee with Menachem when he’s in town. I actually met with him right before passover! I have made a lot of good friends through JHP that I’ve stayed in touch with while also recruiting new friends to join the community.

What impact has JHP had on you? Why do you think it is important to help support JHP and continue its legacy?

JHP does a wonderful job bringing students together to celebrate Judaism and just being a Jew on a college campus. It is so important for students to be pro- Israel and to voice their opinions and educate others, and I believe JHP gives them a platform in which to do so. It is scary what has been going on with college campuses when it comes to antisemitism. It is great that we can reach young people who are impressionable, and who can really make a difference to the future of Israel and Judaism in this country.

What are you most looking forward to at Taste of New York this year?

I am really excited that Ron Dermer is the Honoree, he is such an inspiring guy! It is amazing that he founded JHP. I am looking forward to learning what his vision was when he started it, and if we’ve accomplished it. I am looking forward to hearing about his experiences and really excited to see friends from college. I am bringing my husband and extended family this year. They’ve never been to a JHP event, and are always hearing me talking about JHP so its great from them to be able to come, meet the Rabbis, and really see what its all about.