OU NextGen Division Hosts National Conference For College Student Leaders, 3/2-3

23 Feb 2012


Realizing that Orthodox students on secular college campuses share common interests, the Orthodox Union NextGen Division, which includes the Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program, will host a “Jewish Leaders Conference” for Orthodox student leaders from college campuses across North America. The exclusive invitation-only Shabbaton will take place from Friday, March 2-Saturday, March 3 at New York University’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life.

The OU NextGen Division works with the alumni of OU programs after they have graduated from high school and college. The weekend will be structured using Open Space Technology, which will enable students to choose topics of discussion in order to ensure the time together is spent efficiently, effectively, and in a practical manner.

OU NextGen Director Rabbi David Felsenthal explained, “We constantly hear from our OU alumni that they feel alone in their community on campus. It is the OU’s pleasure to invest in these future leaders of the Jewish people by bringing them together to help create stronger Orthodox campus communities for all Jews to benefit, from whether on campus now or in our communities in the future.”

Student leaders, nominated for invitation based upon campus community involvement or JLIC educator recommendations, have already registered from Binghamton University; Boston University; Columbia University; Cooper Union; Franklin and Marshall College; Ohio State University; University of Florida; University of Michigan; Ryerson University in Toronto; University of Toronto; University of Virginia; Vanderbilt University; and York University in Toronto. In addition, the following JLIC campuses will be represented: Brandeis; Brooklyn College; Harvard; Johns Hopkins; New York University; Princeton; Rutgers University; UCLA; University of Maryland; University of Massachusetts/Amherst; University of Pennsylvania; and Yale.

JLIC places Orthodox rabbinic couples to serve as Torah Educators on 15 college campuses coast to coast, including those listed above. In their responsibilities as role models and guides, the couples provide religious study on a group and individual basis, warm Sabbath and holiday observances, and interaction in the social life for Orthodox students coming from yeshivas, many of whom find themselves attending school in a non-Jewish environment for the first time.

JLIC Director Rabbi Ilan Haber explained, “JLIC has taken a visionary leadership role in supporting students and strengthening community in a campus-focused manner. Yet, as the director of JLIC, I often hear from students and JLIC educators about a desire for students to interact more on an intercollegiate level, meeting students outside of their immediate sphere and learning from each other. JLIC provides this support for its network of educators, but there is currently nothing that exists on a student level. Therefore, the Jewish Leaders Conference was conceived.”

Sophomores Ari Schaffer of Johns Hopkins University and David LeShaw of Hunter College originated the idea for the conference. Noted Ari Schaffer, “Building a network of Orthodox students on secular campuses who can connect and discuss their issues, and plan strategies to build and unify their communities, will help Orthodox students to feel that they are never alone. Knowing that they have friends on other campuses doing the same things they are doing and fighting the same fights they fight will give these students both the confidence and resources to build their own communities.”

David LeShaw added, “The purpose of the program is to strengthen students’ connection to Judaism, and to provide a concentrated forum in which to better cement what we hope to be a brighter future for Modern Orthodoxy.”

Attending the Conference from OU professional and lay leadership will be Dr. Simcha Katz, OU President; Stanley Weinstein of Miami Beach, JLIC Chairman; Rabbi Steven Burg, NCSY International Director and OU Managing Director; and Rabbi Felsenthal. JLIC leadership will include Founder Rabbi Menachem Schrader; Rabbi Haber; Associate Director Rabbi Josh Ross; Rabbi Akiva and Nataly Weiss, JLIC Torah Educators at Rutgers; Rabbi Noah and Sarah Cheses, JLIC Torah Educators at Yale; and Rabbi Gideon and Aliza Black, JLIC Torah Educators at NYU, and host couple of the conference.

Noted Rabbi Haber, “With the overwhelming majority of Jewish day school graduates attending college at a secular campus, the university is a laboratory for the future leadership of Modern Orthodoxy. As an international community, we need leaders whose scope of concern and perspective is broader and more encompassing than simply their own immediate surroundings. The Orthodox Union is in a unique position to facilitate a network of these leaders and to foster mutual learning and support among student communities, as well as to help broaden their perspective. The student leadership weekend is the first step in this direction.”

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