It’s hard to believe that my very first semester of Rabbinical school is already coming to an end. But before that actually happens, papers are to be completed, finals are to be had and any left over work needs to be finished and turned in. There have been amazing conversations in my discussion groups WHO IS A JEW & WHO CARES. Private study sessions have been held and group learning has fully become a presence in my life.
But one of the things that I quickly learned through my beginning stages of ‘Becoming Rabbi’ – was that at school, finding one’s place can actually be very challenging.
How do you find your place in a conversation on matters you might have not been exposed to? Or on matters you are passionate about, but not text-study rich in? How does one find his/her place in prayer – not just the right page, but in establishing a relationship to the daily commanded requirements of doing so – especially inside a room of people WAY more experienced than you? How does one find their place among the rabbinical community – when one might have so much to give, but is still adapting to the new culture, and wanting to honor the current structures in place. Sometimes, ‘place’ actually FINDS YOU – and before you know it, you have a sense of belonging, and place deep inside the current of it all.
I wasn’t sure what I expected when the school year began, but I had assumed that there would be some type of Jewish Life on Campus program that I could naturally be involved in. Here on campus, about 100 undergrads live in the dorms – and a variety of faculty, staff and graduate students live in the 20 something apartments. Most of my rabb-student colleagues live in the heavily Jewish area called Pico/Robertson where temples, shuls and minyonim of every type gather. So up here in the hills of Bel Air, religious life can be a little more difficult. So by the time the middle of September rolled around, and I had not seen one drop of Jewish soul on campus (aside from Rab school life), I got a little worried. Wasn’t I signed up at one of the most progressive and influential Jewish universities on the West coast? Not only where there no Jewish clubs to be seen, but regular Shabbat services or celebrations have been non-existent here.
It’s tough to live here and not see the same faces pretty much daily – so – I began to ask. Where is the Jewish life? Where is the Jewishness in our community? Suddenly, students started to approach me – and the conversation began. What would it look like to have a Jewish culture on our campus? Before I knew it, groups of students were asking me to run some sort of Shabbat program on Friday nights. Over the last several weeks, Shabbos on campus has finally become a reality – and students are beginning to inquire more.
The response began to grow…and grow….until I found myself sitting in a room with the Associate Dean of Student & Academic Affairs, the Provost of the University and the Director of Residents Life.
“Aviva, we’d like to hire you to help organize the orientation week for all incoming students in the Spring.”
Blown away, I was overjoyed to be apart of the team. Days later, I was told that in the Spring, they would like to hire me out as the Jewish Life on Campus Coordinator.
IN MY FIRST SEMESTER OF RABBINICAL SCHOOL?!!?!?
An official announcement is in the making…but students are now coming out of the wood works to inquire about this new soul on campus. Are students actually excited to have Jewish programming? How do we make a lasting infrastructure to support the needs of young Jewish adults in the 21st century?
As I try to focus on completing my educational tasks at hand….this new opportunity is like a gift waiting to be opened underneath my Chanukkah table. I’m trying not to peak….but soon, it will be the gift that everyone will receive from.
Thank you to all my friends and family (mom, dad, Yosef & Adrienne especially) for your amazing support and encouragement through this process. I have finally found my place here in Rab school….and I didn’t even have to look for it. I guess you could say, it found me.
Have a beautiful, warm and special Chanukkah! Shavua Tov!!