Princeton University Welcomes New OU Torah Educators

September 9, 2008

With their Ivy League backgrounds – David, with a BA in history from Harvard, and Sara, with a BA in Judaica and Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania – will certainly be comfortable on the Princeton campus.

JLIC operates in coordination with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and the Torah Mitzion organization to support and tend to the spiritual needs of the students. Although targeted to the Orthodox, JLIC is open to all Jewish students, regardless of level of observance. It is based at Hillel, with the couple being part of both the Hillel and OU staffs.

The JLIC program features intensive study of Jewish texts, Sabbath and holiday observance, daily synagogue services, as well as mentoring and good companionship. It is dedicated to the enhancement of Orthodox communities on campus by promoting positive growth and identity among Jewish students, therefore serving as one of the incubators of the future of Orthodoxy.

The couple hopes to take advantage of the fall holidays (Rosh Hashanah begins on Tuesday, September 30) to meet as many Jewish students as they can. They are planning special holiday classes on seasonal themes, and are particularly looking forward to joining students on a pre-Rosh Hashanah apple picking trip planned by the student board. Rosh Hashanah begins on Tuesday, September 30 this year. The Wolkenfelds are available for one-on-one study, group learning, coffee, and general hanging out.

JLIC, which is now in its ninth year, includes fourteen other campuses across the United States and Canada: Boston University; Brandeis University; University of Massachusetts/Amherst; Yale University; New York University; Rutgers University; University of Pennsylvania; Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland; University of Florida; University of Illinois; UCLA; and York University.

The Wolkenfelds are currently living near the Princeton campus with their sons Noam and newborn twins. Sara, David, and Noam spent the past year living in Jerusalem, where Sara studied Talmud at a women’s seminary, David studied at a yeshiva, and Noam played in many different playgrounds.
A Deep Commitment:

Discussing their decision to become JLIC representatives on Princeton’s campus, David and Sara declared, “We are deeply committed to the potential for Orthodox student life on American college campuses. These campuses are environments of tremendous religious challenge, but also represent environments where transformative religious growth is both possible and common. Campus Orthodox communities are models for the entire American Orthodox scene in their principled and productive cooperation with the broader campus Jewish community, their embrace of women in communal leadership roles, and in their courageous engagement and confrontation with the contemporary intellectual climate.”

“The core responsibilities of JLIC educators offering learning opportunities through study of texts,” they continued, “creates a professional opportunity where we can help others grow Jewishly, even as we ourselves grow in our knowledge of Torah and experience as teachers. We love universities and the vibrant and dynamic intellectual and cultural life that can be found there.”

Rabbi Menachem Schrader, Founding Director of JLIC, declared, “The Wolkenfelds are made for Princeton. They have the perfect combination of intellectuality and warmth that the campus so desperately needs.”

Indeed, the Wolkenfelds have had a great deal of contact with American universities. In addition to his BA from Harvard, David studied Medieval Jewish History on a graduate level at Yeshiva University and received rabbinical ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York; in 2007, he was also awarded the Wexner graduate fellowship, which seeks to promote professional Jewish leadership. In addition to her BA from Penn, Sara is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Talmud at Yeshiva University. She has a background in Talmud study as well as Jewish law, from her years attending various Jewish women’s seminaries. Sara, originally from Teaneck, NJ, is excited to now be back in the Garden State.

Rabbi Ilan Haber, National Director of JLIC, stated, “We’re very excited to make the opportunity at Princeton available to the Wolkenfelds. They come from an Ivy League background and are serious scholars. I’m sure their warmth and dedication will come through clearly in terms of their work with the students.”

Sara stated, “When we interviewed at Princeton we were struck by the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and religious sensitivity of the students we met. We know that serving this unique community will challenge us and push us and never leave us unfulfilled.”

David and Sara are inheriting the JLIC program from Rabbi Josh and Rivky Ross, who experienced substantial success in their three years as JLIC educators at Princeton. The program has deep support among Princeton Hillel administrators and programming staff, as well as with both Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish students.

Rabbi Wolkenfeld stated, “It has made our move to Princeton far easier, knowing that JLIC has an excellent reputation among our future colleagues and students. We are particularly grateful that the Rosses have created a strong precedent for JLIC functioning as an integrated component of Hillel and for establishing JLIC as an educational resource that the entire Jewish community at Princeton can turn to.”

The couple estimates the number of Jewish students at Princeton to be approximately 650 at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Of those 650, “perhaps 200 are affiliated with Hillel,” said David. “The Orthodox community at Princeton numbers only a few dozen, but we hope to engage Jewish students from across the denominational spectrum in authentic Jewish learning, meaningful mentorship, and friendship.”

Said Sara, “Our home is always open on Shabbat and holidays for food and conversation. We look forward to meeting all of you!” The couple can be reached at wolkenfeld@gmail.com and sarawolkenfeld@gmail.com.