The couple to serve as JLIC representatives is also an obvious choice: Rabbi Aaron and Miriam Greenberg are Toronto natives and proud graduates of York, one of the newest campuses to join the JLIC network of college campuses.
Aaron holds a BA in Psychology and Religious Studies from York, while Miriam has a BA in Psychology from the university. Aaron and Miriam also both have Masters degrees; Aaron in Education and Miriam in Special Education. The couple have three children: Tzvi, eight-years-old; Nediva, five-years-old; and Ezra, three-years-old.
JLIC, which utilizes a young rabbi and his wife to serve as Torah educators for the Jewish students on campus, is dedicated to the enhancement of Orthodox communities on campus by promoting positive growth and identity among Jewish students who are not intimately familiar with their new environment.
Rabbi Haber continued, “The colleges in Toronto differ from many other campuses we serve because almost 100 percent of the students are commuter students and are at home at night, so we have to approach them both on campus and at home. There are both challenges and tremendous opportunities for engagement in terms of serving the students in a multitude of arenas.”
Rabbi Menachem Schrader, Founding Director of JLIC, declared, “Canada is the next frontier for JLIC. The Canadian Jewish community has been requesting JLIC for several years, and the time has come to cross the national border and service Jewish students living and studying there. From a communal perspective, the American and Canadian Jewish communities are heavily interwoven.”
Rabbi Haber noted, “Zac Kaye, Hillel’s Executive Director, has been instrumental in bringing this together, and really understands and appreciates the needs that JLIC hopes to address. When he started the beit midrash (study of Jewish texts) program, he did so with the intention of making it into something more full-time with JLIC’s help. JLIC and the OU are fortunate to be able to partner with Zac and the Hillel of Greater Toronto in this project.”
Of the Greenbergs themselves, Rabbi Schrader commented, “The Greenbergs have been doing part-time work at York, as the leaders of the beit midrash study program. We thought it appropriate that the students receive their full and undivided attention.”
Though the JLIC program will officially be at the York campus, where approximately 150 students are Orthodox, the Greenbergs will also spend time at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. Because York has about four times as many students as Toronto, which has about 30-40 Orthodox Jewish students, the Greenbergs will spend three or four days a week working at York, and divide the rest of the week among the other two colleges. Ryerson, the smallest of the three, has about 1,000 Jewish students, of whom approximately 15 are Orthodox.
Aaron and Miriam have worked in previous capacities with many of the students they now serve: Aaron has taught at the local high schools for Jewish students in Toronto, Or Chaim for boys and Ulpanat Orot for girls, and Miriam has been a Special Ed teacher in the elementary day school Eitz Chaim.
Aaron explained, “I’ve worked with the local high schools here for the past 15 years, and many students come back to Toronto after they spend a year studying at schools in Israel. Toronto needed good outreach efforts to attract these students who return to Toronto, not just in terms of learning Jewish subjects but socially as well. Miriam and I hope we can offer that social feeling to the students.”
He continued, “JLIC gives us an opportunity to work for students during the critical years of their lives, as well as an opportunity to help shape a lot of their future. Miriam and I have a chance now to work with real people making religious, professional, and family decisions. Most of all, we are inspired by and learn from the students themselves, even though we are teaching them. I get such personal satisfaction when I stand at a student’s wedding. It is truly exciting to have the chance to see these students from high school through college, and to watch them mature and grow throughout these formative years.”
Aaron and Miriam kicked off the year by hosting a big opening BBQ, as well as a welcoming Shabbat program. Regular programming throughout the year will include Thursday night learning and homemade Shabbat meals classes in Jewish law and thought, and Shabbat weekend programs. Miriam holds a weekly “Lunch and Schmooze,” and plans to hold monthly programs for the beginning of the Jewish month and start a book club for the female students, as well. The couple also have a Shabbaton in November in the works, which will feature Rabbi Moshe Taragon as a scholar in residence.
With the approaching High Holidays, Aaron and Miriam plan to welcome students for holiday meals and classes at their home in Thornhill.
“A good third of what we do is off campus,” the Greenbergs explained. “Whether it’s in our home, a synagogue nearby, or a kosher coffee shop, because York, Toronto, and Ryerson are commuter campuses, this is kind of a ‘JLIC program without walls.’”
Aaron and Miriam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and