New Year, New Rabbi for Jewish Student Life

Jewish Student Life at Loyola Marymount University welcomed new leadership this year — including a new rabbi — and also introduced new initiatives to address both its Jewish constituents and its many campus partners.

Dr. Arthur Gross-Schaefer, also a professor of business law and chair of the law and marketing department at Loyola Marymount University, is currently serving as the interim rabbi of Jewish Student Life (JSL). Rabbi Ilana Schachter, JSL’s previous leader left LMU in the summer to return to the East Coast. Joining Rabbi Arthur in JSL are two Rabbinic Interns — Rabbis Ben Gurin and Laura Rumpf — from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles.

lmu jsl rabbi arthur shabbat 300x200 - New Year, New Rabbi for Jewish Student Life
Rabbi Arthur at Shabbat Dinner in August.

“I heard great things from Ilana Schacter and her intern about the community at LMU,” says Rumpf, a native of Northern California, “and I certainly have not been disappointed. The campus has a uniquely vibrant integrated Jewish community, and I love that we are so well connected to other departments and student groups.”

JSL is housed in the Ethnic and Intercultural Services office. This arrangement is different from other institutions that have a separate Hillel building. However, by being a part of EIS and the Division of Student Affairs, JSL has become an integral and vital part of the larger university community. The office has garnered an enviable reputation as a Jewish community of excellence, having been awarded the distinction of “Small and Mighty Hillel of Excellence” by the RJ Insider’s Guide to COLLEGE LIFE in 2013 and a Campus Partner Award from Hillel International in 2014.

“I had a really formative experience as a student at Stanford Hillel and went into the rabbinate knowing that one of my goals was to be a Hillel rabbi upon graduating,” Rumpf explains. “I love the Hillel model of ‘come as you are’ Judaism, that is inclusive, meaningful, and provides an entry for any and all interests.”

At LMU, even the “usual” is often given a twist. Shabbat dinners, for example, become intercultural offerings of hospitality between Jewish and non-Jewish students, staff and faculty. And the recent Mid-Autumn Moon Festival/Sukkot was co-hosted with the Asian Pacific Islander Student Association.

“We were one of only two campuses in the country to combine these two lunar celebrations of different cultures,” says Rabbi Laura. “It felt incredibly special.”

Among the new initiatives JSL has envisioned for the 2015-16 academic year are on-going forums for conversations on the current Israel-Palestine conflict, the first of which kicked off in early November.

lmu jsl shabbat 300x200 - New Year, New Rabbi for Jewish Student Life
Rabbis Ben and Laura at Shabbat Dinner in November.

“It was one of the most exciting nights we’ve had thus far,” says Rumpf, who facilitated the dialogue.

Rumpf adds that they drew an audience of more than 35 students, who wanted to share their perspectives on the conflict. In addition to hearing from Rabbi Arthur and Professor Holli Levitsky, students were able to listen intently to each other and learn about what inspired each of them to be a part of the conversation.

“That to me is the epitome of Hillel at its best,” Rumpf says. “Students coming together to address a compelling, challenging topic not with the aim of agreement, but with the aim of respect and building supportive community.”

Through the year, JSL looks to continue such dialogues under the auspices of Resetting the Table; lead a Food Justice Alternative Spring Break; as well offer Shabbats throughout the year.

JSL also hopes to grow its interfaith celebration of Hanukkah, which is set for tonight, Dec. 9 at 7:00 p.m., in Malone 112.

By Michael Robinson

Photos courtesy of Ethnic and Intercultural Services