HALLMARKS OF OU-JLIC METHODOLOGY
THE HESHE AND HARRIET SEIF JEWISH LEARNING INITIATIVE ON CAMPUS (OU-JLIC) tailors its activities to the particular needs and culture of each local campus – accentuating the unique strengths and talents of the couple living and working there. As a result, key aspects of our program, may differ greatly from campus to campus. However, the target population, events and classes, and student/educator may differ, each OU-JLIC couple utilizes the same overall techniques and approach. There are five “hallmarks” of OU-JLIC’s educational methodology that are adapted and applied within each local campus’ unique context.
1. RELATIONSHIP BUILDING:
Rather than rely solely on programs or classes as the primary means of impacting students, OU-JLIC stresses the need for a personalized and individual approach. OU-JLIC educators cultivate informal relationships with students, creating a trusting, comfortable environment for students to explore their needs, challenges and issues. Additionally, OU-JLIC recognizes that important values are often communicated non-verbally – through interaction and one-on-one relationships. OU-JLIC educators are encouraged to make themselves a “constant presence” within the Hillel, and to interact with students in informal
settings, most notably, meals eaten in the kosher dining halls. OU-JLIC couples also offer opportunities for one-on-one or personalized learning sessions with students. One educator utilizes the slogan, “any text, any time” as a means of advertising his approachability. Individualized, personal learning enable the educators to engage students on their own terms, focusing on a topic that is of particular interest to the individual student, affording the flexibility and intimacy needed to encourage and nurture personal growth for each student.
2. JEWISH LEARNING PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES
OU-JLIC couples coordinate and/or offer a wide range of activities that promote Jewish awareness, love of Israel and learning. Every couple offers a diverse menu of regular Jewish learning classes, often uniquely targeting even the smallest demographic within their midst, such as a weekly Torah class focusing on Jewish ideals of health and wellness to students who work out in the gym. Other activities center on Israel, Jewish holidays and religious observance, such as a Friday night oneg, or women’s rosh chodesh group; these activities often emerge in response to the particular interests or requests from Jewish students on campus.In addition to their scheduled classes, OU-JLIC educators offer special events/activities throughout each semester. These events range from one-time or short-run classes, renown speakers and shabbatonim, to holiday activities and Jewish music concerts. Recognizing that many Jewish students are not prepared to commit to attending weekly classes, these activities offer couples the opportunity to relate to a larger number of students, reaching a wider and varied target population, and engage the students in a community-wide setting.
The third hallmark of OU-JLIC is the creation and/or support of an infrastructure that promotes or makes it easier for students to lead an observant lifestyle while on campus. OU-JLIC educators often influence the campus-based life in critical and subtle ways. Some of the often unnoticed effects of having OU-JLIC educators on a campus may include: developing an appealing Friday night meal at the Hillel; providing support for various prayer services; developing Shabbat afternoon programming; providing holiday food such as matzah in all the dining halls; creating new and unique kosher food options on campus; advocating to the university regarding religious sensitivity and generally enhancing the quality of the environment or fundraising efforts for new books or other student needs.
OU-JLIC recognizes that an important vehicle for communicating values and ideals is through modeling and setting the right kind of example. OU-JLIC couples present a positive face toward Judaism, Israel and religious observance through their engaging, enthusiastic and welcoming attitudes and perspective. It’s been defined by one Hillel professional as related to the national director of OU-JLIC through his testimonial that “OU-JLIC is the “heart” of his Hillel”. It is important to note that both the male and female educator positions are considered paramount and are provided separate salaries. OU-JLIC feels that it is critical to provide not just male role models, but strong female ones as well. The unique partnership of a married couple strengthens the message we are striving for. The presence of a Jewish family on campus also helps to expand the students’ focus and incorporate it in the hierarchy of values that they develop each day. Often, the couples are most visible as a family on campus during Shabbat and holidays. On many campuses, the OU-JLIC educators and their children share meals with students at the local Hillel. On other campuses, OU-JLIC educators invite students into their homes for meals.
5. STUDENT LEADERSHIP
The culture of campuses, especially within the context of Hillel, is often geared toward the independence and empowerment of students to plan for and provide their own programming and community development. OU-JLIC strives to engage naturally in this environment by working collaboratively with students rather than simply providing top-down programming. Students are often involved in planning and implementing OU-JLIC educational experiences. The balance of OU-JLIC educators’ proactive programming goals and student initiative and involvement is very much an art rather than a science, but one that is crucial to the success of the program on campus. In addition, student empowerment is often a key factor in developing young leaders and a sense of communal responsibility among students, bearing important educational and life lessons in its own right.