OU’s Heart to Heart Spotlighted in Tablet Magazine
A story in Tablet Magazine about available kosher meal options on college campuses begins with the infamous kosher toaster story of Harvard University (which led to perhaps the Harvard Crimson’s best headline: “Students Support Kosher Toaster”). The article documents the rise of kosher cuisine on campus and is chock full of great details like the University of Michigan’s matzo ball soup hotline (called Jewish Penicillin), the MIT kosher station that’s frequented by religious Muslims and the story of Caltech’s kosher kitchen — built to get one student to enroll (it eventually closed, long after that student graduated).
The star of the article is Hart Levine, the founder of Heart to Heart, a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting religious Jewish life on college campuses. Heart to Hearts works by finding dedicated students on college campuses and asking them to run Shabbat meals and become informal leaders of their school’s Jewish community. The organization is sponsored by the Orthodox Union. Most days, when he’s not visiting colleges around the country, Levine can be found at his desk at OU headquarters in lower Manhattan, near the national staffs of NCSY and the OU’s Next Gen division.
Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, director of Next Gen, said that Heart to Heart works because the students are in charge of the effort themselves.
“Our best and brightest Jewish students are reaching out to their peers and showing them the beauty of Shabbat,” he said. “I really think that it’s our best chance to bring our brothers and sisters closer to Judaism.”
Part of the organization’s success derives directly from Levine’s personality. Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck, director of the OU-NCSY Alumni program, recently traveled with an Israel Free Spirit Birthright trip led by Levine.
“Hart Levine is a unique individual,” Rabbi Marchuck explained. “He sees things with his heart and mind. He can identify with students no matter who they are.”
Levine credited the Orthodox Union for its support.
“The OU has been the main force behind all the work we do,” explained Levine. “We work hand-in-hand with the rest of the Next Gen team to ensure that Jewish college students have the support they need.”
Heart to Heart is more than just kosher food and Shabbat meals, as Levine points out in the concluding portion of the Tablet article.
“Are there rabbis? Are there learning opportunities? Minyan? Eruvs? Are there all the amenities, in other words, that are needed for religious life?” [Levine] asked. “That’s the next step.”