Students, alumni, and friends of JLIC at Brandeis came together on Sunday, April 28 for a Lag Ba-Omer Champagne Brunch honoring Rabbi Elliot and Toby Kaplowitz for their six years of dedicated service as Co-Directors of JLIC at Brandeis. Highlights of the event included reflections on the Kaplowitzs’ work by Daniel Kasdan, a current senior, and Josh Pernick, an alumnus. Josh, who grew up in the Reform movement, observed that his first experience with the Kaplowitzes came through an invitation for Shabbat dinner from Yisrael, the couple’s oldest son, who Josh knew from working at the on campus day care. “He was too cute to say ‘no’ to.” He added that by getting to know the Kaplowitzes, he saw that the sharp line he had perceived as existing between himself and the Orthodox community was really non-existent. He now davens in an Orthodox shul. Daniel Kasdan praised the couple for working with a wide range of students and for providing a full and diverse set of programs and opportunities for students at Brandeis.
Toby Kaplowitz shared the couple’s gratitude to the Brandeis community. She shared memories from their first few years at Brandeis when they were living far fromcampus and would transform one of the student lounges into a makeshift dining room where they would host Shabbat meals every week, serving food that had been transported in their car and stored in the Hillel Lounge. After two years of this arrangement, they decided that if they were going to make this work, they had to move to Waltham. Since moving to Waltham, Rabbi Kaplowitz and Toby have hosted Shabbat and Yom tov meals, Superbowl parties, barbecues and shiuirim in their home. Toby called the move to Waltham “the best decision we ever made, other than deciding to get married.”
The celebration extended the entire weekend. Several recent graduates returned to campus for Shabbos preceding the brunch. It offered them a chance to catch up with Rabbi Kaplowitz and Toby in a more intimate setting and to reconnect with friends who are still at Brandeis. The alumni had a special Shabbat lunch with graduating seniors which allowed them the chance to share with the seniors what they can expect after graduation.