Meet Rabbi Noah and Sarah Cheses: New JLIC Couple at Yale

11 Nov 2011


Rabbi Noah and Sarah Cheses are the Orthodox Union’s new JLIC (Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus) Torah Educators at Yale University. Along with their daughter, Adina Malka, the Cheses have come to the Ivy League university as a team, with a sense of mission uniquely fit for their roles needed for students to generate a lifestyle of observant Judaism on campus. Their mission is to create a high level of integration between Torah and campus life for their students.

They succeed Rabbi Jason and Meira Rappoport, who spent an extraordinary nine years at Yale.

JLIC partners on campus with the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, which hosts and partially supports the program. Rabbi and Mrs. Cheses serve as an active and collaborative member of the Slifka Center staff team.

JLIC places Orthodox Jewish rabbinic couples to serve as Torah Educators within the Hillels on local college campuses. In their responsibilities as role models and guides, the couple provides religious study on a group and individual basis, warm Sabbath and holiday observances; and interaction in the students’ social life for students coming from yeshivas, many of whom find themselves attending school in a non-Jewish environment for the first time. They also reach out and interact with students who participated in the OU’s international youth program, NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership.

Including Yale, JLIC is currently found on 15 campuses: Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brandeis, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, NYU, Brooklyn College, Rutgers, the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, UCLA, and York University/University of Toronto in Canada.

Rabbi Ilan Haber, Director of JLIC, emphasized, “The unique qualities, talents and capabilities of each of our educators are the keys to JLIC’s success. Our educators serve as role models and mentors for the students, relating to the questions and answers that students are facing, and helping them continue their Jewish development. We have put together an incredibly talented and diverse cohort of educators, including our most recent additions.”

He continued, “Meira and Jason Rappoport had the privilege of being our longest serving couple of any campus, spending nine years at Yale. Everything that was built at Yale and the success of JLIC there are really the result of their dedication.”

“We enjoy responding to the constantly shifting needs of the student community here at Yale,” Rabbi Cheses said. “Overall, it’s been equally exhausting and exhilarating to serve the students here. We feel blessed to be in a high impact position, and to be able to use our skills and our education for such a wonderful purpose. We recognize the endless amount of good that can be injected into this very talented, ambitious group of young adults. That, in a sentence, is why we are here.”

Noah Cheses, a native of Boston, studied at Yeshiva University’s Honors Program as an undergraduate and at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) Rabbinical School for his ordination. He is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Jewish Philosophy at Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies, and received a Master’s in Family Counseling and Therapy at the Family Institute in Jerusalem. At YU, he was a Schottenstein Scholar in Jewish Studies; a Dr. Norman Lamm Fellow in Jewish Thought; and a Wexner Graduate Fellow.

Sarah Cheses, a native of Columbus, OH, received her B.A. in Biology with Honors from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health at Columbia University. She has completed the Yoetzet Halacha program at Nishmat: The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women, in Jerusalem — trained to serve as an advisor in the realm of the Jewish laws of family purity.

The Cheses have hit the ground running in their first months on campus, literally and figuratively. An avid runner who ran on the cross-country team in college and who has competed in the Boston, Miami, and Jerusalem marathons, Rabbi Cheses has a attracted a solid group of students to join him on runs, during which it is common to discuss theological questions.

Dozens of students were hosted at the Cheses home during the Jewish autumn holidays — Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Festival of Sukkot. Sarah Cheses noted, “We see our home as an intimate personal touch. Within the sukkah, we held interesting discussions on Jewish law and conceptions of prisoner exchange in the days leading to the release of Gilad Shalit; and during the night of Hoshana Rabba, we prepared sessions on the history of women carrying the Torah scrolls.”

On campus, Rabbi Cheses can also be found overseeing that the practices of Yale’s kosher kitchen are well understood and maintained by students; and utilizing his qualifications as a trained Family Counselor to listen to students and to guide them through adjusting to college life and demands. Additionally, he has taken an active role managing the Yale Friends of Israel (YFI), which is a highly mobilized group of students that hosts multiple Israel-related events every week; writes Op-Eds for campus publications; invites qualified speakers to campus; supports the pro-Israel faculty; engages and educates students; and cultivates Jewish-Muslim relations on campus.

The OU’s Rabbi Haber, who together with his wife Leah, were the first JLIC Torah Educators at Yale, declared, “The Cheses represent some of the best of what JLIC has to offer: a combination of passion and intellectual integrity with regards to their Judaism, combined with appreciation, sensitivity and curiosity towards the broader world. I was particularly struck by their rare blend of intellectual capability and achievement, with a natural personal humility. I can’t think of better role models for Yale students.”

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