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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Jewish chaplain search continues

Published: May 2, 2008
Section: News

The Jewish Chaplain Search Committee is interviewing two candidates for the position of Jewish Chaplain according to a school-wide e-mail sent Tuesday. The university has been without a rabbi since Rabbi Allan Lehmann left in April 2007.

“Candidates must demonstrate intellectual and scholarly achievements in Jewish learning, strong teaching and interpersonal skills, and must be comfortable and experienced working in a pluralistic Jewish and university community,” wrote the Committee, discussing the qualifications needed for the Jewish chaplain position. “The Rabbi will offer spiritual guidance to students and other members of the campus community, including interpretation of Jewish law, and provide support to students and staff and their families in times of personal crisis. The ideal candidate will be accessible, and reach out to Jewish students regardless of affiliation.”

According to the e-mail, the Committee will be meeting with Washington University in St. Louis’ Rabbi Avi Orlow, and Rabbi David Sandmel of Chicago’s K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation and the Catholic Theological Union.

“The success of Jewish life on campus is predicated upon having leadership that can articulate the mission to all of its stakeholders. The challenge is to authentically frame it in terms of an ever-changing student body,” wrote Orlow in his statement to the university. “Here at St. Louis Hillel, I have been able to advance an already impressive program in an effort to prepare our students better for life after college. For our students, that could mean anything from hosting their first Seder to participating in a yearlong experiment at pluralistic Social Justice Jewish community.”

Orlow added that he had worked on several interfaith panels, as well as Washington University’s LGBT task force. “Some of the most important work has been empowering our students to see the university as a laboratory where they can realize their role in recreating the world.”

Sandmel, meanwhile, discussed his experience as an editor for several Jewish publications, including “Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity,” “Christianity in Jewish Terms,” and “Irreconcilable Differences? A Learning Resource for Jews and Christians.”

“Rabbi Sandmel is also involved in Jewish-Muslim dialogue and in the tri-lateral dialogue between Jews, Christians, and Muslims,” his statement added. “He is a member of Rabbis and Imams for Peace and attended the Second International Congress of Rabbis and Imams for Peace in Seville, Spain in 2005. He team teaches a course at CTU with a Roman Catholic and an Imam on the Abrahamic faiths.”

The Committee, having only met with one of the two candidates, declined to comment, citing that they might be biased until meeting both rabbis.

Several students, meanwhile, were uncertain about the rabbis’ backgrounds, but felt optimistic about the hiring. Michael Stark ’10 said he wanted “a rabbi who was really knowledgeable about the Torah, and really understanding of students.”

Rebecca Shapiro ’10, agreed, saying, “it’s not just about Reform or Conservative or Orthodox Judaism, but all the different environments and backgrounds of Judaism that people come from.”

“I want to have a rabbi that is really connected with students, whose love of Judaism inspires other Jews who aren’t necessarily affiliated with any one denomination,” said Heddy Benatar ’11. “Judaism is so cool, and that doesn’t always come across with some rabbis.”