I hope you will enjoy the following update of OU-JLIC activities from this past week. Programming and outreach were a little more modest than usual as many of the universities are in the middle of finals.

Impact in Numbers

  • 107 advisory meetings took place with OU-JLIC educators and Hillel, Student Groups, or other groups/organizations
  • 255 virtual coffee dates (including chevrutah learning and check ins)
  • 846 texting and whatsapp check-ins with students
  • 174 students were delivered food by OU-JLIC educators
  • 87 Chaburot and Shiurim were given last week by OU-JLIC educators
  • 999 students and their family members took part in OU-JLIC chaburot and chevrutot this week
  • 32 non-learning events and programs took place over the last week
  • 95 divrei Torah were sent by OU-JLIC educators to 5,177 people
  • 241 Halachic questions were answered by OU-JLIC educators and 31 of these questions were related to COVID-19
  • 26 chattanim/kallot were taught by OU-JLIC this past week

Personal Connections

HEART WRENCHING DISCUSSIONS – A couple unexpectedly expecting their 5th child in 6 years asked Rabbi Reuven and Shira Boshnack (Brooklyn College) about having an abortion. The Boshnacks explained the halacha, clarified the halacha and counseled the couple regarding their spiritual, emotional and physical needs.

AN OPTIMAL SPEAKER – Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan was the featured speaker at a student’s Zoom graduation, selected by the family to participate in their intimate celebration, for the important role he played in the student’s life. He shared divrei chizuk and bracha, enriching the graduation for the student who wrote in gratitude, “I am so lucky to have such an incredible and optimal Rabbi, teacher and mentor during my UCLA experience.”

YOUR FAMILY IN ISRAEL – Rabbi Yehuda and Chagit Peles are the ‘adopted family’ for many Bar Ilan students whose families are not in Israel. They have been welcoming students who have returned from the USA as well as delivering food to them. Rav Yehuda and Chagit are counseling couples who are getting married in spite of COVID-19, some of them without their parents who are stuck in the US. Many of the other couples are reporting that they too have been counseling many students that are grappling with the halachic, practical, and emotional dimensions of dating and getting married during COVID-19.

OU-JLIC STUDY BREAK IN THE MAIL  – Rabbi Isaac and Tal Attia sent 140 handwritten personal letters to their students with a tea treat for #OUJLICStudyBreak.

Programming Highlights

VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY FOR SENIORS- The Killing Covid with Kindness Project is continuing to expand with the creation of a OU-JLIC Virtual University for Senior Citizens in partnership with the Met Council on Jewish Poverty. Rabbi Joe Wolfson (NYU) is coordinating this initiative that will provide a replacement for the in-person classes these senior citizens used to attend.

SENIOREFLECTIONS – With graduation one week away, Rabbi Noam and Shiffy Friedman (Columbia/Barnard) created a social media series called ‘SenioReflections”. On it, they are featuring short reflections from graduating members of the community who answered questions such as “what was your proudest Jewish moment on campus?” and “what advice would you give to your first year self?” and “what is your favorite kiddush food?”. It has been a way for the community to applaud and stand with the incredible class of 2020 in a virtual way.

WOMEN’S PROGRAMMING AT QUEENS – Ashley Cohen (Queens College) concluded her Chabura on the topic of dating with a shiur entitled, “Tefilah in Dating”. She is also working on creating a “Dating During These Times” program where students will hear advice and perspectives on how to date during these times from Shadchanim. Ayelet Shacher (Queens College) ran a Q&A with former Queens College OU-JLIC educator, Channah Cohen, for close to 90 current students and alumni.

DATING AND GENETICS – A genetic counselor spoke with SMC students about the importance of genetic testing, why it is done and what genetic diseases are common in the Persian Jewish community. There was also a Q&A for students to openly and anonymously ask any questions they had.

THE LEARNING CONTINUES IN AMHERST – On Thursday, May 14th, Rabbi Raffi Leicht led a discussion with students on the meaning behind keeping kosher, the place of Halachic stringencies in our lives, and the balance of Yirat and Ahavat Hashem. This Chaburah began as a Gemara Chabura while on campus and has since morphed into an ongoing Question and Answer discussion over Zoom about a variety of different topics that students choose. At the request of students learning has continued despite the completion of final exams last week, and the participating students have added friends to the group to join in on the learning.

TICHEL PARTY – Rabbi Daniel and Sarah Kasdan (Cornell University) had been working closely with a couple scheduled to get married in June, who decided to push the wedding to August so their parents could be there. The kallah is doing Kallah classes with Sarah, and Rabbi Daniel will be the Mesader Kiddushin at the wedding. This week, Sarah threw the kallah a virtual tichel party so she could have a little celebration now despite the disappointment of postponing the wedding.

YAVNEH’S DAVENING GROUP – Elie Codron, a Yavneh fellow, has always felt passionately about building minyanim in places where you’d least expect success. When COVID hit, he got straight to it and created a “Connected Davening” group, where 54 participants coordinate their daily shacharit, and special guests join to lead for Rosh Chodesh. This week marked 2 months since the group started, and it was amazing to realize that the group is still going strong!

TEFILLAH IN HERZLIYA – This past Friday night, IDC-Herzliya students came together for the first time for Friday night davening in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidelines. As the community came together for the first time in 2 months for a small Tefillah, Rav Josh shared some reflections and perspectives on communal patience, kiddush Hashem and our values last Erev Shabbat in a video on facebook.

A Sampling of Halachic and Hashkafic Questions and Concerns

  • In an apartment your parents are renting, does one say בעל הבית הזה in ברכת המזון?
  • “Can I take a job if it will cause someone else to lose theirs?”
  • Can you name a baby after someone who passed away young?
  • Is one allowed to attend an Israeli Lag Baomer zoom concert if it is not yet Lag Baomer in America?
  • “In normal circumstances it is a hiddur to put on tefillin before entering shul. Since we are davening at home should I put on my tefillin in one room and daven in another?”
  • “I’m part of a non-medical Corona virus task force for a government agency. To what extent can I violate Shabbat if I am part of an important policy related discussion but not directly saving a life?”
  • If one wears a mask for protection/protecting others rather than as an article of clothing, can one wear it outside on Shabbat if there’s no eruv?
  • ”Is it halachically forbidden to cheat on a test in school? The reason I ask this is because it’s something that’s been on my mind since school went online and I’ve had a bunch of exams/quizzes where I’ve been able to just look up the answers on the internet. One of my classes explicitly said that you can’t use any outside resources and they actually took certain measures to try and detect people who were. Three of my other classes stated that exams are open book/notes but didn’t explicitly say you can’t use any outside resources. I’m sure even in that case it’s not a good thing to just look up the answers, but I want to know what the halacha says about this so let me know whenever you get a chance.”
  • “Does a Christmas tree count as an idol?”
  • Can you study secular subjects in a shul?
  • My family made homemade hamburger buns but insisted they had to be made with dairy. They were made for tonight when we’re having pareve beet burgers–we expect to finish them all tonight. Is it a problem for me to eat them? We don’t have any other hamburger buns in the house (nothing that looks like them).” (This student is from a Conservative family and became Orthodox throughout college. The OU-JLIC educators on his campus are often in touch with him about questions like this.)

All the best, Ilan