Interview by Hani Lowenstein, Associate Director of Community Projects, OU-JLIC:
Jonathan Linder grew up in Teaneck, NJ and attended Moriah School and Ramaz Upper School. A sophomore at Rutgers University, he is majoring in Political Science and is planning to pursue Semicha. Jonathan, whose involvement in the Rutgers community began as the ‘scrambled egg maker’ after davening, is currently the elected co-Chair of Mesorah, the Rutgers Orthodox Community in Hillel. He is also an active member of the Orthodox Campus Coalition, a network of campus student leaders across the country. Last summer, Jonathan attended Summer in Jerusalem, an internship and learning program run by OU-JLIC and interned at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
HL: Why did you get so involved in student life on campus?
JL: I got involved with Jewish life on campus because I wanted to help make the community at Rutgers thrive. I felt that as someone who benefits so greatly from the community, it’s my duty to give back in any way I can.
HL: Describe one program on campus that you are particularly proud of.
JL: The Shabbat HaGadol Kiddush. The event united many different organizations on campus, including Yavneh, Mesorah, OU-JLIC, and Chabad. It required a tremendous amount of coordination, but it was worth the effort because it brought the community together to enjoy the beauty of Shabbat.
HL: Can you explain your interest in a political science major and connections, if any, to your career aspirations of becoming a Rabbi?
JL: I’m majoring in political science because I’ve always cared deeply about public service. While I was in high school, I decided to go to a meeting with local government officials, and to make a very long story short, I was able to get an internship working for the Township of Teaneck. This experience started my career in public service and solidified my passion for making a change. My experiences at the Summer in Jerusalem program, my internship with OU-JLIC National, my role on the Rutgers Hillel student board as the Mesorah Co-Chair, and finally my passion for public service combined with my love for Judaism have inspired me to pursue a career in Jewish education. My knowledge of political philosophy and theory has informed how I look at the world and also how I think about Judaism. The goal of both Jewish Education and of Political Science is to make the world a better place and foster a more informed society rich with intellectual discourse.
HL: What was your role at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs this past summer and what did you gain from the experience?
JL: I served as a research assistant at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. In that role, I assisted diplomats and researchers in their study of BDS and public diplomacy, current events, and their social media efforts. Much of my time was spent reviewing scholarly works in the National Library of Israel, gathering information on rumors heard in the news and collecting and organizing pertinent materials. I learned an important lesson from my experiences last summer: Research can be tiring and it takes time for conclusions to be made, it’s important to keep your eyes on the larger goals and understand that all of your foundational work will pay off in the end. My work with native Israelis afforded me a unique perspective on Israeli culture. The relationships I made with my colleagues are invaluable and I am still in contact with them. I will never forget my experience on the Summer in Jerusalem program.