Rabbi Elie and Ilana Bercuson, with son Dov, new JLIC Torah Educators at Princeton.
With the academic year well underway and the Jewish Fall holidays in the past, Rabbi Elie and Ilana Bercuson are prepared to look ahead for their first year on campus as the new Torah Educators at Princeton University as part of the Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program of the Orthodox Union, in partnership with Hillel at Princeton University.
They replace Rabbi David and Sara Wolkenfeld, who served the campus for five years. Rabbi Wolkenfeld is now the rabbi of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation in Chicago.
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.
“Rabbi Elie and Ilana Bercuson are an indispensible part of the Princeton Jewish Community and Hilel staff,” noted Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the Princeton Center for Jewish Life, Hillel at Princeton University. “They have warmly welcomed dozens of students into their home and taught Torah on topics ranging from halachic challenges of college freshman and the recent PEW study. They bring a personal touch to their work with students with a passion for Jewish learning and community.”
Rabbi Elie Bercuson was born in Montreal, and raised in Ottawa. He holds a Bachelor of Humanities in Philosophy and Classics from Carleton University in Ottawa and an M.A. in Jewish Philosophy from Yeshiva University. Ilana Bercuson grew up in Highland Park, NJ, and graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Family Studies and minor in Jewish Studies; the University of Maryland is another JLIC campus. They are the parents of an infant son, Dov.
“We both recognize that the years Jewish students spend at college are very formative, not only for intellectual and social reasons, but no less so for their Jewish identity,” Rabbi Bercuson expressed. “Ideally students are comfortable with us not only as educators and authorities in matters of Jewish tradition but equally, they see us as mentors and even to a certain degree as peers.”
“With each campus placement, we work hard to ensure a good fit between personality of the couple and campus,” said JLIC Director Rabbi Ilan Haber. “The Bercusons bring a great combination of sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, and substance in their Jewish passion to the Princeton campus. Both Rabbi Bercuson and Ilana attended secular universities, which gives them insight and sensitivity toward the students needs within the context of their work. We are looking forward to hearing about their great success.”
He also noted, “There is a bit of sadness to see Rabbi David and Sara Wolkenfeld leave, as both are consummate educators and bourgeoning Jewish leaders, yet we wish them a wonderful and successful tenure in Chicago.”
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