Rabbi Reuven and Shira Boshnack will Serve as New JLIC Torah Educators at Brooklyn College

24 Oct 2007


Rabbi Reuven and Shira Boshnack, who kicked-off this academic year at Brooklyn College with an unforgettable Sabbath experience which drew more than 100 students from across the spectrum of Jewish observance, are serving as spiritual mentors and guides to Jewish students on the sprawling campus for the first time this year. The couple is there as part of the Orthodox Union’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program, which arrived on campus four years ago under the leadership of Rabbi Reuven and Nalini Ibragimov.

The Boshnack’s creativity seems limitless. In addition to being gifted Torah educators and leaders, the rabbi, who hails from Oceanside on Long Island, is a sushi chef, an aspiring author and guitarist, and former advisor for NCSY, OU’s national youth program; Shira, originally from Woodmere, also on Long Island, is a talented event programmer whose enthusiasm and energy radiates to all.

Prior to their arrival at Brooklyn College, the rabbi and his wife served as educators in various schools in Boca Raton, Florida, where they were also a part of the Boca Raton community kollel (scholarly institution for post-rabbinical ordination students).

JLIC operates in coordination with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Student 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 the Hillel staff as well as the OU staff.

The 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 (kehilot) on campus by promoting positive growth and identity among Jewish students, therefore serving as one of the incubators of the future of Orthodoxy.

JLIC, which is now in its eighth year, also includes fourteen other campuses: Boston University, Brandeis, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, Yale, NYU, Cornell, Princeton, Rutgers, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, University of Florida, University of Illinois, and UCLA. Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, and Boston University became JLIC campuses this year for the first time.

JLIC couples always have secular college education to better relate to and to understand their students. Rabbi Boshnack earned his BA in psychology from Yeshiva University and received his rabbinical ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at YU. He is also a Master’s Degree candidate in education at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. Shira earned her BA in Judaic studies and psychology from YU’s Stern College for Women, and her MA in education from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

“We are privileged to have the Boshnacks working with us at Brooklyn College. They bring a great deal of experience in informal Jewish education and are the right couple to bring the Brooklyn College JLIC program to the next level,” declared Rabbi Ilan Haber, Director of JLIC. “The Boshnacks spent the past six years working in educational capacities for the Boca Raton community and have a broad range of talents that will be an asset to their program.”

At Brooklyn College, Rabbi Boshnack wants “to build on the success that the Ibragimovs had and to reach more students. I would also like to build bridges between different Jewish communities, which here range from American, to Russian and Syrian, and to unite students from different levels of religious observance.”

To bring students together, the rabbi doesn’t hesitate to use his cooking skills. On a weekly basis, he teaches Cook and Kook, which focuses on learning how to prepare a variety of Israeli and Jewish dishes such as shikshuka (eggs made with tomatoes, peppers, and onions); falafel (fried chick peas); malavach (fried flat bread), as well as studying the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, advocate of the Religious Zionist movement, and a prominent Torah scholar . For the recent holiday of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) the Boshnacks, along with the students, cooked up a sushi storm — 25 pounds of rice, 100 sheets of sea weed, 15 cucumbers and 15 avocados, and half a gallon of rice vinegar.

Shira’s involvement extends to chessed (acts of loving-kindness) programming as well, upcoming projects include: a soup kitchen for the homeless on Thanksgiving; food package drop-offs for the homebound on Chanukah; and an alternative winter break to help rebuild New Orleans, among other initiatives.

Along with their creative programming, the couple meets with students one-on-one to learn Jewish texts as well as to talk about anything relevant to their lives — relationships, school/life balance, religious observance, family, etc.

“It’s always an adventure here,” declared Rabbi Boshnack. “We have so much fun and never know what the next day is going to be like. It’s just unbelievable to be a part of JLIC at Brooklyn College and we are very grateful for being chosen.”

The Boshnacks live around the corner from campus with their children, Levi Yitzhak, seven, Tova Gitti, six, and Shimi, two. To contact the couple call 718-859-1151 ext. 18 or email reuvenb@bchillel.org or shira@bchillel.org.