OU Campus Program Breeds Championships, Thanks to Prowess at U of Florida

09 Jan 2007


Ho hum! It’s happened again. For the second time in 10 months, the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program is part of college life at the NCAA champion of a major sport, just as it was last spring following the “March Madness” basketball tournament. Of course, the University of Florida’s athletic prowess has something to do with it.

When Florida defeated Ohio State last night in the B.C.S. championship football game, it joined with the school’s basketball team, which defeated UCLA in the Final Four, to be crowned National Champion. In that tournament, both Florida and UCLA were JLIC schools.

What is JLIC and why does it have a seemingly mystical hold over prestigious athletic championships?

JLIC is a program, in coordination with Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Student Life, to create an Orthodox environment on secular campuses. It is found at 13 major colleges nationwide. The program is dedicated to the enhancement of Orthodox communities on campus by promoting positive growth and identity among Jewish students through a variety of activities, including study of ancient texts and the holding of religious services. At the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Rabbi Yonah and Allison Schiller run the program, with a large following of students.

Come March, JLIC will be back again trying for another championship. Florida and UCLA are certain to be in the basketball tournament, perhaps to be joined by the University of Illinois, the University of Maryland, Rutgers, the University of Massachusetts/Amherst (Julius Erving’s alma mater), Yale, Princeton, Cornell or the University of Pennsylvania, other JLIC campuses. (The program is also found at Brandeis, New York University, and Brooklyn College, which compete at a more minor level athletically.)

And the championships? There is no rational explanation but as Rabbi Menachem Schrader, the founder of JLIC, declared following the latest University of Florida triumph, “I am happy for all JLIC university campuses to succeed in every possible legitimate way, including sports competitions. It’s easier for me to root for one of them when they are not competing with each other!”