2017-01-18 / Voice at the Shore

Beth Israel college students return home to their rabbi

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor


From left: Rabbi David Weis; Ava Gadon, sophomore at American University; Emily Wynne, freshman at Rowan University; Shayna Lowenstein, freshman at Rutgers; Allie Vain, junior at Montclair State University; Joshua Childs, freshman at University of Vermont; Sarah Childs, senior at Northeastern University; Jennifer Strenger, junior at University of Edinburgh; Susan Weis; Ethan Fischer, junior at University of Maryland; Matt Werman, freshman at University of Maryland; and Benjamin Tiger, sophomore at Washington University- St. Louis. From left: Rabbi David Weis; Ava Gadon, sophomore at American University; Emily Wynne, freshman at Rowan University; Shayna Lowenstein, freshman at Rutgers; Allie Vain, junior at Montclair State University; Joshua Childs, freshman at University of Vermont; Sarah Childs, senior at Northeastern University; Jennifer Strenger, junior at University of Edinburgh; Susan Weis; Ethan Fischer, junior at University of Maryland; Matt Werman, freshman at University of Maryland; and Benjamin Tiger, sophomore at Washington University- St. Louis. A lively group of ten college students who spent their youth attending Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield gathered together at the home of Rabbi David and Susan Weis earlier this month. Over a pizza lunch, the group talked about college life, told jokes, and contemplated the possibility of attending a Birthright trip to Israel that Weis plans to lead this time next year.

The students were home for the holidays from universities as far away as Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Most attended schools in New Jersey or elsewhere on the East Coast.

Most everyone knew each other— either from Beth Israel’s religious school, Hebrew High/Kulanu or both.

Rabbi Weis, obviously happy to see “his” kids again, said he made a point of hosting college students every year at this time. “It’s very important to me. I don’t want them to get disconnected,” said Weis, who also tries to stay connected by following students on Facebook.

Several kids talked about Jewish life on their campuses. At Rutgers, Jewish culture abounded; many Jewish students even ate two different Shabbat meals in the same night—first at Hillel and then at Chabad, said Shayna Lowenstein, a Rutgers freshman.

In contrast, Jennifer Strenger, a junior at University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said it was virtually impossible to find Jewish foods around campus, given that there are only 400 Jewish people, including students and residents, in the entire city.

Kids talked about parties, their dorms, classes and schedules. They also talked about their campus’ reaction to major world events, such as the presidential election (Matthew Werman, a freshman at

University of Maryland, said he studied all night for a physics test scheduled for the morning after the election, only to find that his distraught professor had cancelled it), as well as Britain’s exit from the

European Union, otherwise known as

Brexit (Scots were not happy, said

Strenger).

“Does everybody know I give you money for taking Jewish studies classes in college?” the Rabbi told the students during a momentary lull in the conversation.

“One hundred dollars for each class that you pass, for up to 5 classes.” He had to limit it, he told them, or else “a Jewish studies major could really wipe me out!”

The rabbi also encouraged students to join him when he once again leads a

Birthright trip to Israel next winter. Weis said he could take up to 40 students and encouraged everyone to invite their friends.

(Jennifer Strenger is the daughter of Voice Shore Editor Ellen Weisman Strenger.) s

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