Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus Rabbis Across North America Maintain Close RIETS Ties
Graduates of YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) serving as Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) rabbis at east coast college campuses returned to Yeshiva University to reconnect and meet with Roshei Yeshiva and administration on December 24.
JLIC, a program administered by the Orthodox Union and Hillel, “helps Orthodox students navigate the college environment and balance their Jewish commitments,” explained Rabbi Ronald Schwarzberg, director of the Morris and Gertrude Bienenfeld Department of Jewish Career Development and Placement Center for the Jewish Future-RIETS.
He added, the JLIC couples are there “to inspire and learn with Orthodox affiliated students on campus, to open their homes and create an atmosphere where students will feel welcome and continue to remain engaged with their Judaism while on campus.”
Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, reached out to the alumni, inviting them back to the first meeting of what will be an ongoing group conversation. “RIETS is committed, not just to the success of its graduates, but to the many Jewish students on campuses around the world,” said Rabbi Penner.
The daylong event featured a discussion with Rabbi Penner on their experiences on college campuses as JLIC rabbis, their semicha [rabbinical ordination] training, and how Yeshiva can help them in their current roles. Dr. Chaim Nissel, YU dean of students, led a session titled “People in Crisis While Away from Home—how does it present itself and what is our responsibility,” followed by a question and answer session with Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger on various issues.
The JLIC rabbis have maintained close ties with RIETS, regularly reaching out to their rebbeim [rabbis] for advice and to answer shailot [Jewish legal questions]. The JLIC rabbis are recent musmachim [ordained rabbis] who have been working with JLIC from one semester to a few years.
Rabbi Eliezer Bercuson has served as the JLIC rabbi at Princeton University since June 2013 and maintains regular contact with YU. He and his wife Ilana, “joined JLIC because we recognize how essential our work is on campus for the Jewish people. We are very much involved in both Jewish education and the community rabbinate. Our lives on campus are dedicated to being the ‘go-to’ Jewish figures for the next generation of Jews, and especially observant Jews. JLIC educators like Ilana and I are dedicated to ensuring that our students have all the Jewish learning, Jewish support, and Jewish experiences that they need.”
Rabbi David Pardo, JLIC rabbi at Brandeis University, cites himself as a product of both JLIC and RIETS; he was inspired to join the rabbinate by his JLIC rabbi at UCLA. “As a group, we touch the lives of thousands of exciting and excited Orthodox college students who really are poised to change the landscape of American Orthodoxy, including future rabbis and lay leaders,” said Rabbi Pardo. “So much can be done and so much can grow out of a synergistic relationship between JLIC and RIETS.”