Fifty Shades of Judaism
By Steve Gotlib, Class of 2018
Rutgers Hillel Student Board Education Co-Chair
Oh boy, have I had a jam packed winter break. Rather than doing something normal like playing video games, watching movies, and binging television shows on Netfix, I decided to spend my winter break learning in yeshiva (institute of learning where students study Jewish sacred texts). Not just one yeshiva, but three different yeshivot. My first week was spent at the OU-JLIC Winter Beit Midrash in Washington Heights, NY. While there, I was able to learn about the theme of Shabbat from various OU-JLIC educators and Rabbaim (rabbis) from across the country. The second week was spent at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach in Monsey, NY where I was able to learn with a community of Jews who practice a stricter form of Judaism than most people at Rutgers. It was a wonderful experience where I was able to complement living in a different social world with getting top notch Torah education. Finally, my last week of break was spent at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, NY. Chovevei has been able to bring everything together by providing a modern and practical context for everything that I have learned.
The time that I spent learning over this break provided me with a view of Orthodox Judaism from three different perspectives. Each perspective that I found myself presented with was different from the others. Being able to see Orthodox Judaism from these three perspectives not only taught me more about Judaism, but also taught me more about myself, showing me where I most align and where I can see myself in the future as my spiritual growth continues.
The break that I experienced also got me thinking about the incredible opportunities that a student has at Rutgers Hillel. We are lucky enough to attend a school that has three incredibly vibrant religious communities as well as wonderful nondenominational programs. Whenever I see an event that is being run by any of these communities, I feel so privileged to be able to go to a school where it is possible for that event to happen. The Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox communities at Rutgers are all doing such amazing things, and it really is wonderful.
Amongst other things, this winter break taught me the value in being able to step outside of one’s comfort zone and taking a look at perspectives that you may not have exposed yourself to before. Even if you find that you do not completely agree with what is being said, there is a value in being able to see and experience it for yourself instead of only being told about it or making assumptions. Being at a place like Rutgers allows for you to do that, and I would definitely recommend it. Take some time out of your day to go to another community’s event or just sit down and chat with a person who grew up differently than yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even like what you see.