By Amanda Engel
Two new couples recently joined this university’s Jewish community. The Tsykins and the Hirschhorns were hired over the summer to be the two new Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) couples.
JLIC is an Orthodox Union program (OU), that matches campuses with Orthodox educator couples who build relationships with and create learning opportunities for students. Both the Tsykins and Hirschhorns are taking over for former JLIC couple Rabbi Ari and Shira Neuman who moved to Columbus, Ohio with their son Moshe.
Allison Buchman, Director of Operations at Maryland Hillel, explained why Hillel decided to hire two couples for the upcoming year.
“We know that there are many different types of Orthodox students with many different needs and that two couples, would better reach more students and be able to fulfill their varied programmatic and spiritual needs,” wrote Buchman in an email.
Both families have already moved into College Park and are preparing for the arrival of students over the next couple of weeks. Here’s what you should know about the new families before the school year starts:
This family of four (with another on the way*) has come to College Park from Alon Shvut, Israel. Alex and Ahuva have two children Yoni, 3 and Racheli, 18 months.
Rabbi Alex Tsykin is originally from Melbourne, Australia, while Ahuva grew up in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Between the four of them, they speak and/or understand fluently seven languages, not including Racheli’s own language, in which she gibbers with facial expressions and hand motions and expects to be completely understood, according to Ahuva.
The couple was introduced by their morning seder chavrutas (learning session study partners) while studying at Yeshiva University. They both love cooking, hiking and camping. The couple said they also have a talent for getting into strange situations, make sure ask them about their U-Haul truck story from the week before their wedding or about their crazy trip moving here from Israel!
The Tsykins are very excited to be here. Ahuva feels her role here is to “help people own their own Jewish identity,” whatever that may mean for each particular student. Alex said he wants to be a resource to the students of the Jewish community, to help them to make informed decisions. “Be[ing] back in Hillel” is one of the things Ahuva is really excited about, having been involved in the Hillel at Barnard College as an undergraduate.
The Hirschhorns are joining the College Park community from Neve Daniel, Israel. Yonaton and Avital have two daughters, Navah, 2 and Tamar, 4 months.
Rabbi Yontaton Hirschhorn grew up in Neve Daniel, while Avital lived in Baltimore before her family moved to Israel when she was 10. The couple “love[s] listening to all types of music,” and they hope that one of them will soon learn how to play the guitar.
Yonaton and Avital were set up by close friends. Yonaton’s yeshiva (post-high school educational institution) roommate nagged him for nine months to go on a date with Avital, and once he finally agreed, they spent five months dating before they got engaged. They both like spending time outdoors; Yontaton likes to hike and Avital enjoys long walks.
The Hirschhorn family is also very excited to be joining the Terp community. They “chose to come to Maryland because of [the] vibrant, dynamic and diverse active Jewish community.” Yonaton and Avital want students to know that they had their own challenges and struggles in finding their connection to Judaism at points in their lives and that they’re are “truly here for each and every student.”
Both the Hirschhorns and the Tsykins are looking forward to having open doors and open ears for students. And if students keep their ears open, they might hear Yoni Tsykin saying “Go Twerps!” or Navah Hirschhorn chattering away.
*The term bsha’ah Tovah is a Hebrew phrase generally used in the Jewish community in the context of congratulating someone on a pregnancy. It’s literal meaning is “in good time.”