Bringing Campus Rabbis Together

OU-JLIC Rabbis Gather for Day of Inspiration and Learning at RIETS Conference

On December 23, Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) hosted a conference for participants in the Orthodox Union Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC) who serves as rabbis on college campuses across North America. The event, held on YU’s Wilf Campus, offered these rabbis a chance to connect with roshei yeshiva at RIETS and share their experiences with current rabbinic students interested in learning more about the program.

20151223_OU_JLIC_017OU-JLIC is a program administered by the Orthodox Union and Hillel that helps Orthodox students on secular campuses navigate the college environment and balance their Jewish commitments with their desire to engage the secular world. It’s designed to help maintain a religious community atmosphere and connection on secular college campuses with programming driven by young rabbis and their wives, known as Torah educators.

There are many RIETS alumni in the program. They stay closely connected to their rebbeim at YU’s rabbinical school year-round, relying on them as a source of advice and turning to them for guidance when answering shailot [Jewish legal questions]. The December conference brought rabbis currently serving in the program together with educators and administrators at RIETS to explore the many ways the University can be an important resource to them as they lead their college communities.

The conference also provided the opportunity for current RIETS students to learn more about a fellowship that would enable them to shadow alumni couples serving in the OU-JLIC program. The fellowship, accredited as a formal internship, serves as a training ground from which future full-time OU-JLIC rabbis are chosen.

RIETS alumni play a major role in the OU-JLIC program. Presently, 11 of the 22 rabbis serving in the program are RIETS musmachim, such as Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier, who serves the Yale University community; Rabbi Noam Friedman, who serves Columbia University; Rabbi David Eckstein, at Johns Hopkins University; and Rabbi Yaakov Taubes at University of Pennsylvania. At the conference, the young rabbis shared stories about their experiences on their respective college campuses with one another and answered questions from rabbinical students interested in the program.

20151223_OU_JLIC_103Panel presentations included “What’s Happening on Your Campus – and On Ours” by Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, and “Winds of Change: Society and Jewish Tradition” by Rabbi Dr. Michael Rosensweig, Nathan and Perel Schupf Chair in Talmud at RIETS, followed by a luncheon. The OU’s JLIC Director of Professional Recruitment and Leadership Development Rabbi Gideon Black ran a relaxed and interactive lunch session for current students interested in campus work with Rabbi Gideon Shloush, director of rabbinic internships and professional skills training at RIETS.

“These couples are the front lines in secular universities,” said Rabbi Shloush. “And the fellowships are the training stations. Shadowing an OU-JLIC couple and hopefully considering becoming one someday puts our students at that critical spot where they can impact the lives of so many young Jewish professionals. They are sophisticated, bright and approachable and we do all we can to nurture that.”

At the conclusion of the conference, RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Ozer Glickman gave a lecture titled, “Modeling Intellectual Orthodoxy in a PC Secular Environment.”

“This was one of the most important afternoons I have spent in Yeshiva,” said Rabbi Glickman. “This is a topic very close to my heart and mind, and these talented men are on the frontlines of our community’s ongoing struggle to maintain fidelity to Jewish tradition while engaging with secular culture. Engaging with them was inspiring.”