Since its founding in 2001 by Rabbi Menachem Schrader, the Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative (JLIC) has placed Orthodox couples on colleges across the North American continent. Funded by the OU with support from donors and Hillel, the program is expanding to five more campuses this year, bringing the total number of colleges with JLIC educators to twenty-one.
“We are excited to be expanding to so many new campuses,” says Rabbi Joshua Ross, associate director of JLIC. “This highlights how important JLIC’s mission is and the need that it fills in the Orthodox community.”
Rabbi Noam Friedman spent last year working as the Orthodox clergy intern for Columbia/Barnard Hillel. He and his wife, Shiffy, serve as the first official JLIC couple of Columbia University and Barnard College in New York City. They join the JLIC family with their two-year-old daughter, Avital.
“It’s exciting and a privilege to be a part of something so vibrant,” Rabbi Friedman says.
Ruthie Braffman, part of the University of Pennsylvania’s JLIC team, expanded her work to include the nearby Drexel University campus. Drexel, a research university, has recently seen an uptick in the number of Jewish day school students attending the school. Braffman has a master’s degree in Talmud from Stern College and served as a congregational intern for the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. Her husband is a student at Penn Law.
“They’re very bright,” she says about the Drexel student body. “They’re not scared to take risks.”
University of Wisconsin
Shlomo and Ora Geller left the pleasant climate of Israel for the University of Wisconsin to be the college’s first-ever JLIC couple. Shlomo served as a sniper in the reserves of the Israeli Defense Forces. Last summer, Shlomo received permission from the IDF to leave the country because of the importance of JLIC’s work. Shlomo says that the mission of JLIC ties in with his service to the IDF.
“Jewish identity is very important,” he says. “I believe that it gives strength to us as a nation and as a people. It gives us a foundation for what we do in the army and we need that.”
They moved to Wisconsin with their one-year-old daughter, Hephzibah.
Rabbi Akiva and Nataly Weiss moved from Rutgers University in New Jersey, where they served as the JLIC educator couple for the last four years, to Binghamton, New York. Rabbi Weiss is Binghamton’s first-ever JLIC Torah educator and Nataly serves as the executive director of the Binghamton Hillel. They have three children: Ezra Ariel, Eliora and Elianna.
Rabbi Moshe and Dahlia Farkas serve as the JLIC couple at McGill University in Montreal. It’s a homecoming for Moshe who is a native of Montreal