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Amazing Semester of Learning at Chabad’s Campus Jewish Discovery Program, CLI

Rutgers Chabad has just marked the culmination of a ten week intensive study program during the fall/winter 2016 school term focusing on the “Thirteen Fundamental Principles of Jewish Faith” defined by the great Torah scholar Rambam (Maimonides). The college within a college at Rutgers is an educational innovation sponsored by Myron (Mike) Shevell in memory of his beloved son Jon, to enable and encourage university students to learn more about their Jewish heritage through college level Jewish education while living away at school. Over the course of the program, participating students analyzed and discussed the Thirteen Principles in depth together with supplementary texts from the Talmud, traditional Jewish philosophy, and Chassidic philosophy under the leadership of the program’s educators, Rabbi Shaya Shagalow and Baruch Goodman.  The program catered to a diverse array of students ranging from beginners who only recently discovered their Jewish identity, to lifelong observant Jews who received a thorough Yeshivah education and lived in Israel.

Here are a sampling of reflections from this semester’s participants in the Jon Shevell Jewish Discovery Chabad Learning Initiative Leadership series:

Brian Deutschmeister

Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics, ‘18

After taking this class, I have not only gained a new perspective on Judaism, but I have also developed a stronger sense of pride and Jewish identity. Before taking this class, I was only exposed to Judaism through Hebrew school and Sunday school. Twice a week, I would sit in class bored out of mind for two-three hours wondering what the point of everything was. At the time, I thought I was just there to learn hebrew so I could have a Bar Mitzvah like the rest of my family. I didn’t really know why I was learning what I was learning, but I did it because my parents told me to.

When I came to Rutgers, I was aware that it was a very Jewish school, but that wasn’t really what drew me to Rutgers. I came for other reasons, and the Jewish aspect was a nice little perk that came with the school. I didn’t really think that I would pursue too many Jewish activities, but I was wrong. I ended up joining Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity on campus, as a freshman, and it was through Alpha Epsilon Pi that I actually discovered the Chabad Learning and Leadership Initiative class since one of my fraternity brothers introduced me to the class.

I am so glad that I took this class because not only was it nice to bond with several of my brothers and meet some cool new Jewish people, but it also helped change my whole perception of Judaism. As a child, I was lectured about the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, for instance, and would get the same lessons drilled into my brain over and over. I felt like I was forced to think a certain way and couldn’t really develop my own opinions on Judaism. But in the Rutgers Chabad Learning Initiative, I was able to hear the same stories but with a much different mindset and perspective. The Rabbi recounted everything, but this time he told us things I hadn’t heard the first time and there was more discussion and interpretation, which really opened my eyes to why we do the things that we do as Jewish people.

One of the big lessons I learned from this class was the importance of setting goals and how to achieve those goals. During one of our sessions, the rabbi made a great soccer analogy pertaining to setting goals. He said that in order to play a soccer game you need two things aside from a soccer ball and the players: a goal and boundaries. You can’t have a soccer game without either of those two things. Similarly, you can’t set a goal and expect to achieve that goal if you haven’t clearly defined what that goal is or if you don’t set boundaries for yourself. I have dreams in my life that I would like to achieve and as long as I am realistic with myself and understand the boundaries and obstacles that come along the way, I can achieve my goals and dreams.

My favorite memory from the CLI class was the Shabbaton. Unlike my services at home, the service I attended at the Shabbaton was upbeat and lively. To my surprise, there was a lot of singing and dancing. I enjoyed that because the Shabbat services I’m accustomed to are pretty dull with just reading and chanting prayers. But this was a nice change of pace, and I really enjoyed that. The Shabbat dinner was also a very good experience. It was cool seeing so many people come together and share a meal. Although I didn’t really like the food that much, I still had a fun time because everyone seemed to be in such a festive and jovial mood. Now I understand why Shabbat is considered a holiday, and I definitely think I will be returning to Chabad in the future for Shabbat dinner.

In conclusion, the CLI class was a very good experience. I would definitely recommend it to my Jewish friends in my fraternity and other Jewish friends I have met at Rutgers. I learned some valuable lessons pertaining to Judaism, and I also gained a new perspective on Jewish ideas. I can’t wait to apply all the things I learned and gained from this class to my own life in order to become a better Jew and better person, and hopefully I can inspire the people around me to be better people too.

Rebecca Gilbert

Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, Psychology, ‘19

At the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester, I knew that I wanted to become more involved with the Jewish life on campus. However, I was not sure how to achieve this goal, because I was nervous to take the first, bold step. This all changed when my sorority sister, Jessica Yenk, introduced me to the idea of taking Chabad’s CLI class (RU Jewish Discovery Leadership Seminar). Since she is the current president of Chabad, I knew that she was extremely passionate about this class, and it truly resonated when she described it to me. I could tell that this class has impacted so many people in different ways, so I confidently decided to try it for myself. I soon found out that this class was the perfect way to both learn more about Judaism, and to become more involved with the Jewish community on campus.

        During this class’s meetings, I had the pleasure of meeting many of my Jewish peers at Rutgers, and I had the honor of getting to know Rabbi Goodman (one of the most passionate and funniest Rabbis I have ever met). Each class started with a joke that caught everyone’s attention, made everyone feel comfortable, and related to the day’s lesson all at the same time. Even though I had attended Hebrew School from grades K-12, this CLI class pushed the limits of what I thought I already knew about Jewish history and culture. It built upon previous information that I have learned, and opened my eyes to different ways of analyzing this information. Specifically, Rabbi Goodman effectively pushed me past my previous ways of thinking by encouraging me to ask him any question that came to my mind. In this class, I did not fear that I would ask a “silly question,” because Rabbi Goodman explicitly stated that he loves questions and that they further the class’s discussion. So, for the first time in my Jewish educational experience, I felt like a vital part of the class’s discussion of new ideas, instead of just a listener.

One thing that I found particularly interesting was the Torah’s account of Avraham and Sarah. Personally, I loved that they had a tent that was open on all four sides. Their tent was made to welcome all guests and to provide them with food and temporary shelter. This sense of generosity and endless giving is something that I find quite inspiring. Unfortunately, in today’s society, people have begun to act only for their own benefit. With the invention of the internet, many people have lost sight of the needs of others, since they can control the kinds of information that they are seeing and reading. This directly contrasts with Avraham and Sarah’s mindset of openness to all visitors. This couple simply accepted all people who came across their tent. In fact, they once welcomed three visitors who appeared to be no different than their other visitors. However, after treating them with loving-kindness, they discovered that these three special visitors were actually angels. This is a great lesson for everyone to learn from: we should be kind and loving to all people, because we never know when goodness will be sent right back to us. Avraham and Sarah fully recognized that every person should be treated with equality and fairness. They treated each of their visitors with equal respect, and they certainly never looked down upon them. As a society, we have much to learn from Avraham and Sarah. We must treat those who are different than us with respect and fairness.

All in all, I loved my experience in the Chabad CLI class. This course has taught me so much about not only customs and stories, but also what it means to be an active member of a Jewish community. After completing this course, I can proudly say that I feel much more aware of my religion’s history and ideas. Also, I now know that I always have a home within Rutgers Chabad.


I took this class with the intention of learning a bit about Judaism, but it did much more for me. I finally got a chance to spend some quality time with Rabbi Baruch Goodman, who is an incredible man, learned a good deal about the history of my family’s religion, met fellow Jewish students on campus who I now consider my friends, and most importantly, experienced a true Shabbat dinner the way it was meant to be.

To start I’d like to give some background about my own prior Jewish experience. I grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey, which is a nice suburban town outside of New York City that has a large Jewish population. These Jews are almost entirely reformed however, and thus my family belonged to a reform temple throughout my childhood. Starting in third grade I went to Hebrew School at the temple once or twice a week, but did not really pay much attention to the material that was being taught. I enjoyed going because I had a lot of friends there, but otherwise, my two or three hours per week were basically a waste of time. As I got older, I began to prepare for my bar mitzvah, which took place in seventh grade. I learned all the prayers by heart as well as my Torah portion, but I never really comprehended the translation of the text. I just went through the motions because the faster and more error free I spoke, the faster I could get to the party that my parents were throwing for me. Having a bar or bat mitzvah in my town is extremely popular, but it’s much more about the reception where friends and family gather to dance, drink, and play games, than it is about the actual idea of becoming a man or woman in the Jewish faith. As a result, the vast majority of kids, myself included, stop attending Hebrew School as soon as they go through the ceremony.

This lack of concern for Jewish education is one reason why I thought registering for the CLI class would be advantageous to me. I would get an opportunity to learn the basic history of a religion that has been passed down in my family from generation to generation. The other students, who I now consider friends, and I heard about stories from the Torah from Adam and Eve down the line to Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Moses, and more. Details and concepts that I either couldn’t grasp or didn’t care about as a young kid were now being told to me in a new and more effective manner. This is where I have to commend Rabbi Goodman because he is an extremely joyful, funny, and caring gentleman. He really commands the attention of the room with his exceptional storytelling and makes the class so interesting that I looked forward to it each week.

Lastly, I wanted to cover the Shabbat dinner because that was one of the most rewarding experiences of the class. Rutgers Chabad is a very generous and gracious host to all the Jewish students who walk through the door. Not only was the food tasty, but also the atmosphere at the table was quite enjoyable and welcoming. It was great to eat something other than a Rutgers dining hall meal for once especially in the company of my similarly minded classmates. I never really understood the holiday quality of a Shabbat dinner until experiencing it fully that Friday night at Chabad. The tune of everyone singing, their smiling faces, and the rabbi’s talk really brought together a certain ambiance that I had never seen before.

Had I not joined this class I would not have gotten the opportunity to meet new Jewish friends, feel comfortable at a true Shabbat dinner, and learn valuable history from the great Rabbi Goodman. It has been a great semester and I look forward to staying involved in the future.

Casey Levenstein

Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, Economics, ‘18

I really enjoyed taking this class with Rabbi Goodman. He made class so entertaining and informative. It didn’t even feel like a structured class with an agenda and points to get through because everything flowed so naturally. Everyone was so willing to ask questions and have discussions that it felt more like a tightknit group of friends hanging out than a class based on educating us. Each week I genuinely looked forward to coming to class simply because of the people. The food during class was also very enjoyable. It made the time go by much quicker and gave us the opportunity to interact with people in the other class.

        I really enjoyed the Shabbaton. It was very special to get to light candles and take part in the evening. The food was amazing and the people that I attended with made it even more exceptional. My favorite part was definitely the L’chaims because the Rabbi gives a toast to something important and makes you think. That time he said something to us about the importance of friendship and made me realize how important they truly are to me. I would never have met them if it was not for Birthright and then continued to develop the friendship during this class. It is amazing how something so simple like religion can bring people together. I will most definitely be coming more often on Friday nights to enjoy Shabbat dinner. The connection you feel during the evening is truly something special.

I enjoyed the topics we discussed during class, as well. Every topic was actually interesting and the discussions will stick with me forever. The incorporation of humor and facts made it much easier to learn the information. Rather than feeling like Rabbi was lecturing us on a topic we didn’t care about, it felt as though he was just guiding a discussion with a group of friends, making it must more retainable. From the first class, I knew that it was going to be great. We started with the basics like how the world was created in 7 days, the Jewish months of the year, and other basic knowledge, and then progressed on to the lessons of Noah’s Ark, Moses, and other important moments in history. It was very informative. He also talked a lot about Rabbi’s personal life, connecting it to the class, making it more relatable. It was so sweet to see the love that he has for his wife, family, and his job as the campus Rabbi. The passion makes it much more interesting because it comes from a place of happiness, not just trying to get the information into us in the allotted time period and quickly leaving.

Overall, I felt like the Rabbi led the class in the best way possible. There was much discussion and he was always open to answer any question, no matter how silly. We were an interesting group of people so the fact that he was able to respond to anything with a smile on his face is remarkable. Along with the silly questions, he also was able to provide insight on genuine questions people had and answer to the best of his ability. One fun highlight of the class was filming the Mannequin Mitzvah Challenge at Chabad. Another perk was getting to go to JCafe afterward and connect with a larger group of people

It really felt as though we were a family by the end of it. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to meet so many great people and learn so much through taking the Chabad CLI class. I look forward to possibly taking the returner class. I would love to see all the people that were in the class again and continue the friendships that were made. I always feel welcome to come back to Chabad now and I could not be more grateful for the people that made my experience so great.


Rutgers Business School, Marketing, ‘18

Prior to my enrollment in the CLI class with Rabbi Goodman at the Chabad House, my expectations were that the class would drag on, or would not be relatable to a group of college students, and when I first walked into the room my previous notions were not accurate.  Rabbi Goodman made the class feel like a learning hangout with comforting snacks and beverages, not a rigid classroom. He was very knowledgeable, relatable and made the class fun for all of the students while providing a lot of information that I still remember to this day.

I learned a lot in Rabbi Goodman’s CLI class including answers to questions I have had for a while but never knew the answers to. For example, I always wondered what the reasoning was behind certain synagogues dividing men and women throughout the duration of services. In the class, I learned that the reasoning so was that each member would be able to focus solely on their prayer time, rather than thinking about or looking at their spouse, for example. In turn, everyone’s main focus would be devoted to G-d so the prayer is most “pure” and directed at G-d.

Another interesting story the Rabbi delivered to the class was the story of the boy shoveling ash during the holocaust. At some point during the holocaust, a boy was shoveling ash at the end of a crematorium to clear the way for the remains of the incoming bodies. He noticed a commonality with end body that came through burned. There was a piece of the dead people’s neck frame that was left unscathed by the fire in each body. This piece, as told by the story in question, is a “base” for resurrection when the Messiah comes. I found this story very profound and interesting. Another interesting fact that we were taught was that ancient literature mentions that people should be using about 10-20% toward Tzedakah.

During the past summer, I went on the birthright trip to Israel for 10 days. We discussed many similar topics that the class touched upon within our discussion group, so a few of the stories sounded familiar and I had a little bit of background knowledge. However, the discussions from our tour guides in Israel were dry and not very interesting. Through his spirit, excitement, and passion for the topics we talked about in the class, the stories and topics became much more interesting and detailed.  I would like to thank Rabbi Goodman for teaching this great class that I will recommend to friends, for building friendship among Jewish students at Rutgers, and making the classes relatable as well as hosting the Shabbaton at the Rutgers Chabad house.

Taylor Donato

Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, Biology, ‘18

My experience in the Chabad Jewish Discovery seminar was outstanding. I looked forward to coming to class each week for a fun session of interesting stories and inspiring life lessons about what it means to be Jewish. Rabbi Goodman has a wonderful sense of humor and a contagious optimism that immediately brings my spirits up. The stories he told were captivating; the smile never left my face, and I was always eager to learn more. Also, in class, I met many friendly people who continue to share common interests with me in learning more about Judaism. Ever since I enrolled, I have gotten to know countless familiar faces of whom I never knew on my first visit to JCafé.

    As I grew up, I had a public education, and never attended Hebrew school, Yeshiva, or a Jewish day school. Very few of my classmates were Jewish. Since childhood, I have only learned the basic stories of Jewish holiday traditions and culture, but very little about the deep history of our religion, or homeland, Israel. When I came to Rutgers, I decided to join Chabad to befriend other Jewish students, and I was ecstatic when I had the opportunity to sign up for this class. Now, I know for sure that I made a wise decision.

Of all the topics discussed, there are a quite a few that certainly stood out to me. First of all, “a Jew must live with the times.” We, the Jewish people, do not believe in punishment, because G-d, possesses an unconditional love for his children, and constantly encourages us to move forward. We should not dwell on the past, but we should learn and grow from our errors and apply them to our daily life. Nobody is perfect, and there is no such thing as a “good” Jew or “bad” Jew; if one is born of a Jewish mother, they are Jewish. Regardless of how religious someone is, or how they understand G-d, they will always be Jewish without an additional label. Also, since Saturday, Shabbat, is the last day of Creation, it is considered a day of rest and celebration for all Jews. As a famous quote follows, "More than the Jewish People have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews."

Furthermore, “when two Jews meet, it should benefit a third.” The greatest honor to be alive is to help someone else in need. Tzedakah means righteousness; a real Jew is a righteous person, as they provide for themselves and for others. Rabbi told us a story of a poor man who visited a synagogue and prayed in front of the Torah to ask G-d for food to bring to his family. Meanwhile, a married couple sought to provide G-d with a food dish in keeping with the teaching that Jew must serve G-d with the heart.  Every week, the poor man would find food behind the doors to the Torah, and was sure that G-d provided it to him. However, only the couple found out that the food was being taken by the poor man, and the man was not informed that the food was provided by the couple. What matters most is the principle of tzedakah, an obligation of all Jews to give to others.

All in all, this class provided to me a new, uplifting, and appreciative outlook on life, and instilled in me a continuously-growing pride in my Jewish faith. I am now motivated to apply the relevant lessons to my daily life, and will continue to reflect upon our significant cultural, traditional, and religious history. The film Mekonen, produced by Jerusalem U provided an eye-opening insight into the daily routine of an Israeli soldier, but more importantly, it opened many doors for me to learn more about Judaism and Israel. I enrolled in an online program called Israel Inside and Out, and watched a video series about the history, culture, lifestyle, and conflicts of Israel. These videos, in conjunction with the CLI class, now inspire me to explore new opportunities to learn about my religion, and eventually, I would like to learn Hebrew. As well as this knowledge and drive will benefit myself, I will share it with my friends and family. I plan to visit Israel on Birthright in the future, so I can enrich my appreciation for my remarkable heritage and religion.

Leah Koretski

Rutgers Business School, Finance, ‘19

Coming into this class, I was expecting it to be like a school setting. I went to a Jewish elementary school years ago and I thought it was going to be like that. I was pleasantly surprised on the first day to learn that the class revolved around open discussions and asking questions. Rabbi Goodman made the material funny, relevant and understandable. I was somewhat familiar with a couple of the stories and teachings, but the rabbi portrayed these traditional stories in a new way. More importantly, he discussed what lessons we can take away from the stories.

    In one of the classes, for example, we discussed the Hebrew words for “truth” and “lie.” We analyzed the spelling of the words and the letters of the alphabet. Emet, which means truth, begins with alef, which is the first letter in the alphabet. The alef is followed by the letter mem, which is the middle letter of the word and the entire alphabet. Lastly, the word ends with taf the last letter in the alphabet. By spelling the word with these specific letters, we learn to look throughout for the truth. The truth is not easy to find and must be sought. You must look at the beginning, middle and end in order to find the truth in a story. The letters alef, mem and taf also all stand on two legs when you look at the letters themselves. The letters are stable and can not be pushed around. Similarly once the truth is found it cannot be manipulated and twisted. On the other hand, the Hebrew word for a lie is Sheker. The letters shin, kof, resh can be easily found in the alphabet. In fact, they are side by side. This could be interpreted to mean that lies are easy to find and do not require as much investigation as finding the truth does. The three letters that spell Sheker stand on only one leg. Having one leg makes the letters unstable and easily pushed around. Lies are the same way; we can twist our words to deceive others. The analysis of the words, their meaning, and the spelling reminds me that the Torah wastes no word, letter, or syllable. There is a deeper meaning to the way the Torah is presented and why each word was chosen.

    Another interesting part of the class was the Shabbaton we all participated in. This Shabbaton was the first time I had gone to Friday night services at the Chabad House and the first time, in a long time that I had prayed. I was happy to have remembered the words from my youth and that I was still able to read the Hebrew text. I liked the fact that boys and girls were separated for prayer because I felt more confident and comfortable. Being surrounded by girls, I was not embarrassed to sing along and have a good time with the prayers. The dinner was also a great time. After the rabbi delivered his L’Chaim’s, everyone sat down together and got to know each other. Being that Rutgers is such a big school, this was a great opportunity for me to meet some Jewish people on campus. I met some interesting people at the Shabbaton who I still keep in touch with. I even saw some familiar faces! The dinner, the people, and the environment was great and extremely welcoming, even for someone who had never been to a Shabbaton before. After this experience, I realized that I want to have Friday night dinners with my family when I am older. I loved the feeling of everyone coming together, without any distractions, to have dinner and catch up on life, even if it is just once a week. My family used to have Friday night dinners, but when I got older I stopped seeing the value of it. Looking back, I wish we had continued this tradition and I hope to maintain it with my future family. I hope to take another class like this again because I believe it strengthened my Jewish identity. I had been out of touch with Judaism before joining the class but coming to CLI has reminded me how much I love being Jewish and how important it is to remember where I came from.

Ethan Klein

Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, Statistics, ‘18

I learned a great deal in this class with Rabbi Goodman and had a lot of fun while doing it.  We focused on studying teachings and stories of the Torah, but we would sometimes diverge into very interesting group conversations. We started the class by talking about Adam and (Chava) Eve and the creation of the world, and continued to talk about how the Jewish people evolved as time went on. We spent a good deal of time talking about the story of our founding mothers and fathers Sarah and Abraham, Isaac and Rebecca,  as well as Jacob, Rachel, and Leah. I specifically loved that we learned about what they did on this earth.         

    A conversation that we had about Judaism that resonated with me was when we talked about today’s different labels of Judaism, reformed, conservative, and orthodox. When I asked the Rabbi about this he told me that according to the Torah, there is just Judaism.  Some people may be more or less observant in terms of following the mitzvot, however as long as one is working towards accomplishing more mitzvot that is what being a good Jew is about for me. I have always struggled with the idea that if you cannot do all of the mitzvot, than what is the point of doing any of them. Rabbi Goodman reminded me that a much better way to think about observing Judaism is to always be working towards a goal of making G-d proud. Whether that goal is keeping kosher, or not doing malacha on Shabbat, trying your best is a key part of being a good Jew. Taking this class made me excited about Judaism and I hope to continue to take classes with chabad as well as attend Chabad run events during the course of the year.

I also truly enjoyed the two events that I went to through this program. The first event was a film discussing what it is like to be an African Jewish IDF soldier.  Our class then watched a concert performed by a hip hop group called Cafe Shachor Hazak. These two rappers deliver inspirational messages through their music by telling stories of successful Israeli immigrants. This was a well-organized event ran by the Chabad and the entire Rutgers Jewish community and helped me better understand what immigrant Jews go through in search for a better Jewish life. The other event was our Shabbat services followed by a beautiful dinner. At first I was a bit nervous coming into the services because I was not sure how much I would remember, however once we started many of the prayers came back to me. Praying with the Rabbi and the rest of our class turned out to be a truly positive experience. There was so much joy and happiness in the sanctuary when we prayed; I specifically enjoyed the Lecha Dodi prayer that welcomes in Shabbat. I remember prayers as very boring and slow, but the Rabbi did a great job of keeping the prayers upbeat and meaningful. Before each prayer the Rabbi gave us a brief summary of the importance of each prayer in welcoming Shabbat. After prayers, Chabad prepared a beautiful dinner for us and we  sang and ate. I will definitely be coming back to Chabad for services and dinner. These two events were very well organized and made me proud to be apart of the Chabad Jewish community here at Rutgers.

Michelle Grinberg

Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Public Health/Pre-Med, ‘19

I really enjoyed being a part of this class this semester. This class has allowed me to get more involved with Chabad and the Jewish community at Rutgers. I have started going to JCafe after this class every single week now because I really enjoy the atmosphere, and being able to socialize with other Jewish students my age. If it was not for this class I would not be regularly going to JCafe. Also, I really enjoyed the Shabbaton that I went to. I really liked the guest speaker and how we emphasized the importance of marrying someone who is Jewish, as that’s what will continue the Jewish tradition. The atmosphere at the Shabbaton was very welcoming. The Shabbaton was Sephardic themed and I got to talk to people who had different cultural upbringings. They talked about how they celebrated the holidays differently compared to culturally Ashkenazi Jews. I was also able to try different foods from the usual food that is given on Shabbat. All of this showed me that even though Sephardic Jews are different in the foods they eat and their culture, they still feel the same way about being Jewish.

I like how the class was set up with the rabbi telling us different stories such as the account of Abraham and Sarah and the story of Passover. The rabbi made this story extremely interesting and personal because he brought his own wife and children into the story. He discussed his love and respect for his wife and how they brought up their children in the Chabad community. He showed the importance of raising a Jewish family and how important it is to be welcoming of other people. Sarah would take care of any female visitors by making dresses and food for them. This course has made me realize how much I want to raise a Jewish family to continue and pass on traditions to my Jewish children. I really enjoyed how the rabbi would ask us questions throughout class and it allowed us to discuss it openly. The class environment was not judgmental at all and I felt very comfortable speaking and asking the rabbi any questions that I had. This class has allowed me to want to continue my Jewish education, even in college. I believe that this class is a great start to getting involved in the Jewish community at Rutgers. I have met lots of nice people in this class who I can now go to Shabbat dinners with.

One thing I learnt in this class is that apparently, having different levels of Judaism is not allowed in the Torah. I did not know that there should not be different levels for how religious people want to be, for example Orthodox Jews or Reform Jews. Rabbi Goodman taught us that by having different levels of religion, it separates Jews instead of bringing them all together. Judaism is about one community. Jewish people should identify themselves as Jews, not by how religious they are.

One of the many Jewish traditions I found very interesting was how to properly wash my hands on Shabbat. Before we eat the meal with bread, we have to wash our hands and make a special blessing. So immediately after Kiddush we perform the ritual washing for bread. We have to fill a large cup with water. Pass the cup to your left hand and pour three times over your right hand. Repeat by pouring on your left hand, and then say the blessing.

Katie Beilin

Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, Political Science & Psychology, Pre-Law, ‘18

During the course of the semester, I learned so much from Rabbi Goodman and the many principles discussed in class at Chabad. Through the enthusiasm, intelligence, and witty humor of the Rabbi, I had fun while learning so many new things about Judaism and the history of our people. He was able to answer any questions my classmates and I had, and always kept us interested and on our toes with his unique explanations of what we were learning.

Another part of what made this class so enjoyable was taking it with the friends I made on birthright; this furthered my knowledge and passion for the Jewish people and for Israel. One of the stories that I most enjoyed learning about was the history of Abraham and Sarah as a couple, and about their hospitality and their personalities. For example, we learned that Sarah was entirely free of sin, and quite modest and kind. She took care of everyone who visited their tent, and men and women came to Beer-Sheva to seek help, advice, and comfort; Sarah would also stay up at night making dresses and things for the community’s poor and needy. They were also very patient in waiting to have children, and never questioned their faith. Instead of letting people thank them for their hospitality, Abraham and Sarah said not to, just to thank God. This shows how modest they were, and it points to Jewish values of the importance of believing in God and taking care of others.

Many of the stories and principles we learned throughout the course restated those values, and I took those especially to heart. This topic was made especially interesting by the rabbi, as he added his own commentary relevant to his family; he discussed his immeasurable love and respect for his wife, and how they raised such a wonderful Jewish family that is involved and very passionate about the Jewish community. This made me feel more connected to the importance of having a Jewish family myself, and in making sure I continue the traditions of my family and pass on the knowledge from this course to future generations so they can share in the same passion. Overall, there was so much in this course that I valued. From learning about the true meaning of Hannukah, to the Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith, to the biblical stories in the Torah, I truly came away with new knowledge every week.

Beyond the information provided by the Rabbi, I also love how much more involved I have become in Chabad. Every week, my friends and I would go to their “JCafe” program after class for music and food. I also went to more Shabbat dinners at Chabad than I ever have before. Another great part of the CLI course was the Shabbaton, in which I learned about Sephardic traditions through new foods, songs, and people. I learned that they may have different holiday traditions within their own families, but all of their Jewish values are the same, and most importantly, we were connected through the Shabbaton. I believe that this course is a great way to start being involved in the thriving Jewish community at Rutgers.

Rabbi Goodman is wonderful, and his love for what he does at Chabad is radiant and felt by everyone he teaches. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have taken this course, and for the ability to learn more about my people while having fun and creating Jewish memories at college.



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