Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus At Maryland Welcomes Rabbi Ari and Shira Neuman
With the academic year well underway and the Jewish Fall holidays in the past, Rabbi Ari and Shira Neuman are prepared to look ahead for their first year on campus as the new Torah Educators at the University of Maryland as part of the Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program of the Orthodox Union, in partnership with Maryland Hillel.
The Neumans worked as City Directors for the Highland Park, New Jersey chapter of NCSY, the international youth movement of the OU, before joining the JLIC family.
They replace Rabbi Eli and Naomi Kohl, who served the campus for seven years. Rabbi Kohl is now the rabbi of Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation in Westchester County, New York.
JLIC hires couples to work as part of the Hillel staff to serve as Jewish educators, role models and community organizers on campus. JLIC Educators are engaged in working with students on 16 campuses across North America.
“We are thrilled to have Rabbi Ari and Shira Neuman as part of our community leadership and are deeply grateful for the partnership with and investment by the OU in Orthodox Jewish life at Maryland Hillel,” said Ari Israel, executive director of Maryland Hillel. “Ari and Shira bring a real sense of depth and willingness to develop personal relationships with our students. Their classes have been well attended, and their home filled with students seeking a family to connect with. Their personal outreach enables traditional Jewish students at a large campus to feel that they not only have the ability to be anchored by their Jewish religious identity but are inspired to have opportunities to grow in their Judaism as well.”
He also noted that Maryland Hillel offers an glatt kosher food, an eruv, Shabbat and Holiday celebrations, multiple daily minyanim, dozens of Torah classes, “and the Neumans help to breathe a heartfelt neshomah into the vibrancy of a community with more than 500+ Orthodox students on campus.”
Rabbi Ari Neuman, a native of Highland Park, NJ, graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in Psychology and continued his studies there to receive rabbinic ordination and his Master’s in Medieval Jewish History. Shira Neuman, originally from Bergenfield, NJ, graduated with a BA in Psychology from Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, and holds a Master’s degree in Jewish Education from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. They are the parents of an infant son, Moshe.
“After a thorough search process, we and the search committee focused in on the Neumans due to their vitality, outgoing nature, warmth and intelligence,” explained Rabbi Ilan Haber, director of JLIC. “It is particularly exciting for them to be joining the JLIC OU team since they come to OU family as former chapter directors of NCSY. It really accentuates how the OU cultivates Jewish talent and leadership.”
Shared Rabbi Neuman,“We heard about JLIC from Rabbi Noah Cheses, a close friend of ours and current JLIC Torah Educator at Yale. Noah told us we must look into the possibility of JLIC, and after considering our options, we decided it was the best next step for us.”
The Neumans noted that they have found “an incredible amount of transferable skills learned as an NCSY city directors that translates to the JLIC world—such as, that both are relationship-focused jobs in which relationships are built in a particular neighborhood.” Goals for the year include creating relationships, creating opportunities for learning on various levels and creating portals of entry for all students to learn more about and/or deepen their connection with Judaism.
Referring to the long time University of Maryland JLIC predecessors, Rabbi Haber reflected, “The Kohls are continuing to do work for us on a part-time basis reaching out to JLIC alumni and young professionals in the New York area, and we wish Rabbi Kohl great success in his new position as rabbi in Mount Kisco.”
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