Jewish Learning and Fellowships

Welcome to Slifka’s Fall 2021 learning and leadership opportunities! We can’t wait for the searching, soulful conversations we’ll share and create together. 

There’s so much happening in this sprawling community with a big, open heart. Life is exciting, tentative, and confusing as we return to communal living – and everything below is a vehicle to make friendship and connection central to this year. Most importantly – we’re always here to talk.

Not sure where to start? Try the Jewish Learning Fellowship, a cohort for those looking to dip a toe into the waters of Torah; or the Tzedek Fellowship, where we pair volunteering in the New Haven community with study about social justice in Jewish tradition.

Want to build the class of 2025’s Jewish life? Become a first-year ambassador. Looking to connect a group of friends or an extracurricular to the larger Slifka community? You should become an Urim Fellow.

We’re also focusing our communal energies on the fundamental moral struggles of our day. This year we will offer working-groups that will begin with deep study and honest conversation, and then shape Slifka Center’s work on reconceptualizing Jewish identity, climate crisis, and Israel/Palestine.

Perhaps you are looking for a community with similar experiences, identities, and questions about Judaism’s relevance in their lives. If so, there’s the vibrant W{h}oly Queer, LGBTorah, and JQC- Jewish Queer Collective. Want less talk and more cardio? Check Krav Maga.

And there’s a lot of good, old-fashioned Torah at Slifka. Want to explore a topic or text with a friend? Lauren and R’ Alex are here for you with one-on-one study, Sunday night learning over pizza and the venerable Yeshivat Yale is a weekly late-night dip in the sea of Talmud, with a level for those with zero Talmud background and one for alumni of immersive yeshivot and midrashot. For the meeting-place of the text and the spirit – which is, after all, Jewish prayer – join R’ Jason for Pray Like You (Don’t) Mean It at 8 every Tuesday night. Each Shabbat morning there’s some very sweet and light student-led learning; last but not least, the student-facing staff learn together every Tuesday at 12:30 in the Slifka dining hall – and you’re invited.

Below you’ll find all that, including information about how to sign up for each opportunity. (Note: the difference between ‘fellowships’ and ‘groups’ on the one hand, and ‘classes’ on the other – is that fellowships and groups are a community that requires commitment to multiple sessions; a class is a drop-in affair.) Overall questions? Not finding what you’re looking for, or not even sure what you’re looking for? Rav Jason wants to hear from you at jason.rubenstein@yale.edu.

Jewish Learning Fellowship

This fellowship is an 8-10-week experiential, conversational seminar that invites fellows to deepen their understanding of Judaism on their own terms. We will explore some of life’s big questions, including those related to community, commitment, friendships, and intimacy. We make no claims about the “right” way to practice or not to practice Judaism. The goal of the fellowship is to help you explore the tradition in a welcoming, warm space in conversation with a diverse group of people. That means we’ll ask a lot of big questions, but we don’t purport to have any of the big answers. Students who attend all 10 sessions will receive a $300 stipend. Apply here! Questions? E-mail Associate Jewish Chaplain Rachel Leiken.

Urim Fellowship

Community is one of the central pillars of Judaism. The Urim fellowship recognizes the sacredness of building relationships and Jewish community, and invites you to hone your skills in this work. In this fellowship we will meet once a week to build and discuss leadership, community organizing, and human-centered design thinking skills. But most importantly, we will actively be working to build community and foster new relationships among Yale’s Jewish student body. Every week fellows will reach out to at least one peer for a one on one conversation. As we build these personal relationships we will also work together to foster new Jewish communities. 

Strong candidates will either have a) a specific constituency in mind that they would like to engage as well as a network within that constituency. Or b) an interest in fostering new relationships and cultivating belonging among Jews of diverse backgrounds. We encourage everyone to apply regardless of your Jewish knowledge and background.  Students who complete this fellowship will receive a $300 stipend. Apply here; send any questions to Assoc. Jewish Chaplain Rachel Leiken.

First Year Ambassadors

WE LOVE YOU CLASS OF 2025!

Looking for an opportunity to grow your leadership skills in a supportive and nurturing environment? Looking for an opportunity to connect with other First-Years? Looking for an opportunity to build community amongst your class year? Become a First-Year Ambassador and learn how to do all of this and more!

First-Year Ambassadors are a community-building leadership opportunity for anyone in the Class of 2025 to gain experience and create opportunities for their classmates.  Click here to apply by 10/13 at 8pm. Contact Aviva Green with any questions.

Tzedek Fellowship

We’re a tight-knit group of Jews who care deeply about social justice and its centrality to Judaism. The Tzedek (Hebrew for ‘justice’) fellowship is built on two pillars: weekly volunteering with IRIS, tutoring refugee students in New Haven Public Schools (though the exact form it will take depends on NHPS’s distance-learning plans), learning about justice work in New Haven, and monthly study of topics selected by fellows – such as reparations, environmental justice, and homelessness – from a Jewish lens. Interested? To sign up, or with questions, email HSB Social Justice Chair Hannah Edelstein.

The Matrix of Jewish Identity

Who, or what, is a Jew – and how? These questions of status are personally charged, existentially weighty, and politically resonant. We’ll gather as a group who, first and foremost, cares about the strong and tender claims we each make to Jewishness, and about one another. And on that foundation we’ll explore the contemporary matrix of Jewish identity – in our lives, in the world at large, and in Yale’s Jewish community. Categories of race and gender, Whiteness and immigration, law and family, belief, and obligation will guide our exploration. This work will culminate in a collaborative project to intervene in and transform our own community – the content and purpose to be determined by the group itself. Application and attendance at all cohort meetings is required; any and all questions should go to Rav Jason.

Climate Crisis Working Group

We will sit with one another in the company of the hard questions, “How should we prepare for a world after climate catastrophe (or realize we’re already in one)?” and “Must we (not) bring children into a depleted, damaged world?” What can Judaism offer us as we confront the implications of a climate catastrophe we have failed to avert? How should Slifka balance our key function of providing kosher meat with our environmental values? What to do about reducing population growth and the continuity of the Jewish people? Are ‘sin’ and ‘penance’ helpful categories for environmentalism? What are the emotional practices that match the urgency on climate – without drowning in despair? Sign up here, or send questions to Rav Jason at jason.rubenstein@yale.edu.

Israel/Palestine Working Group

This is the hard one, the third rail. We’ll consider everything – from the complex histories of Zionism and anti-semitism to Mizrahi identity to co-existence efforts to religious and philosophical texts. Our goal will be to pierce the veil of mistrust that can make these conversations impossible, and to create the conversations you’ve always wanted, but haven’t been able to find. Sign up here, or send questions to Rav Jason at jason.rubenstein@yale.edu.

W{holy} Queer and LGBTorah 

W{holy} Queer: The Chaplain’s Office, Office of LGBTQ Resources, and Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life invite those of all religious and spiritual persuasions to monthly discussions that explore the intersections of all things queer and religious! Each conversation will have a different topic; come to as many or as few sessions as you please. “Questioning” or not “Out” to those you live with, feel free to participate in the chat! For more information, or to be added to our e-mail list contact Rachel Leiken.
* This program primarily serves those who identify as LGBTQ+. Those who identify as Allies should consult Rachel Leiken before attending. 

LGBTorah offers a space to explore queer readings of sacred Jewish texts. Individuals of all orientations, gender identities, and Jewish backgrounds are invited to this bi-weekly study group. Texts will primarily be drawn from Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentary on the Hebrew Bible and Noam Siena’s A Rainbow Thread. Come all year or drop by for one session!

Questions? E-mail Rachel Leiken.

Jewish Queer Collective

Looking for queer Jewish spaces on campus? The Jewish Queer Collective (JQC) is a new student-led organization seeking to provide a warm, affirming, fun space for Jewish LGBTQIA+ students! This is a come-as-you-are space without any expectation of experience in or knowledge about Judaism and/or queer community. We will be having some short guiding questions for group discussion, followed by unstructured hangout time. We’re so excited to see you there! For any questions, please reach out to Syd Bakal (they/them) at syd.bakal@yale.edu or Gabe Klapholz (he/him) at gabriel.klapholz@yale.edu. Questions? E-mail Aviva or Rachel.

Chavruta/Chabura (small study group)

We love learning Torah, and we love all of you, and so we really, really love learning Torah with all of you! Form a group of 2-4 of your companions, choose any topic or text, and let us know!
What will we learn? Whatever your soul desires! Talmud, midrash, the weekly parasha, the meaning of life, early-medieval kabbala, late-medieval kabbala, what Jewish prayer means and how it works, what shabbos means and how it works, how to get rich quick, responsa literature, whatever.
Have a only a vague sense of what you’d like to learn but aren’t quite sure? Reach out to us at alex.ozar@yale.edu or lauren.steinberg@yale.edu.

(Sabbatical) Yeshivat Yale -Wednesdays, 9pm

Join us for our beloved weekly hour of Talmudic mayhem, deep camaraderie, and potentially homemade waffles. This year we’ll be diving into the intricacies of the shemita (sabbatical) year, thinking through the mechanics and implications of ceasing economic activity one year out of every seven as the Torah mandates. We’ll think philosophically, economically, politically, and of course — talmudically.

If you’re interested, fill out this very brief form. If you have any questions or suggestions, please be in touch with R’ Alex.

Pray Like You (Don’t) Mean It – Tuesdays, 8pm

We’ll tour the human condition, and reflect on the tender parts of our own lives, through careful, playful study of the texts of Jewish prayer. Sure, there’s belief and skepticism – but what about longing, pride, anguish, and wistfulness? Each week we’ll take one human question, and one text of Jewish prayer, and juxtapose them. No registration necessary, and all texts available in English. Questions? Email R’ Jason.

Sunday Night (Pizza and) Learning – Sundays at 6:45pm at the Ozar/Steinberg Home

Join us for kosher Sunday night dinner (most often pizza, sometimes sushi and homemade pasta) and some Torah learning on various topics. Suggestions as to dinner and Torah selections are welcome. RSVP’s not required but very much appreciated — write to R’ Alex or Lauren.

Staff Learn Torah, And So Can You! – Tuesdays 12:30-1 in the Slifka North Dining Hall

Our learning is experimental, curious, and low-key – and we’d love to have you join us. We’ll be gathering every week for a small, self-contained vignette of Torah, and you can join us. No prior experience necessary, all texts available in English. No rsvp – just drop in.

Shabbat Collaborative Learning

Do you remember in days gone by when we used to gather after kiddush on shabbat morning to share texts and reflections and our souls? Join us as we recreate the experience in virtual space in the hours before shabbat. Students will be recruited to present a devar Torah or salient text and lead us all on an adventure of collaborative learning and communal growth. Stay tuned for details!

Contact: Rav Alex at alex.ozar@yale.edu or Maayan Schoen at maayan.schoen@yale.edu.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a self-defense and fighting system developed for the Israeli Defense Force. The martial art is focused primarily on defensive rather than offensive combat, and real world situations. This student led virtual class will include youtube videos for self-paced learning as well as zoom meetings to practice, connect with peers, and perfect your techniques under the guidance of trained peers. 

Interested? Email michelle.barsukov@yale.edu