By Georgia Slater
For the Mitzpeh
This spring, MEOR is kicking off its 27th semester of the Maimonides Leaders Fellowship, an experiential education program that has engaged hundreds of Jewish students around this university’s campus over the years.
This year’s orientation for the program occurred Wednesday evening at “The Box,” MEOR’s home near campus located on Knox Road. There are about 40 students participating in this semester’s program, all of whom came together to enjoy dinner and learn about what would be in store for the next few months.
According to the organization’s website, MEOR Maryland seeks to extend relevant and engaging Jewish learning opportunities to the broadest spectrum of Jewish students at this university. Spanning a college semester, the MEOR Maimonides Leaders Fellowship is designed to do just that.
“The program is geared towards students with a broad range of Jewish backgrounds, and makes Jewish learning accessible to those even with the most limited Jewish educations,” said Rabbi Ari Koretzky, executive director of MEOR Maryland.
Over 2,000 graduates have completed the fellowship since its beginning in 2004 , and it seems that each year more and more students are eager to join.
Junior early childhood and early childhood special education major Avital Lupovitch decided to do Maimonides this semester after a sorority sister highly suggested it. Lupovitch, who attended a Jewish day school growing up, wanted to continue her Jewish learning in a formal setting.
“I hope that this program will help me figure out my Jewish identity and how I plan to continue my Jewish education in the future,” said Lupovitch. “Since I have the Jewish education background, I am looking forward to learning new ideas that I am not so familiar with.”
Similarly, sophomore accounting major Lindsey Strauss said she joined the program in hopes of feeling closer to Judaism as an individual and to find a Jewish community that she could connect with.
The fellowship group meets Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m., and each week there are guided group discussions, exploration of classic Jewish texts and guest speakers. These visitors engage students and help them discover their Jewish identity in an entirely new way.
Koretzky said the Maimonides program was not designed as a “leadership training program” in the conventional sense. With over 60 college campuses teaching this fellowship, the hope is to empower modern-day Jewish college students so they can become passionate Jewish leaders of the next generation.
“It is intended to arm those possessing existing leadership skills with the wisdom to actually become Jewish leaders – leaders informed by Jewish knowledge – not just leaders who happen to be Jewish,” said Koretzky.
The topics explored throughout the semester vary each week. They might range from learning about what it means to go from good to great, and another week might discuss the idea behind suffering or making sense of personal and global pain.
Maimonides is a great way to meet new people around campus, said sophomore elementary education major Elana Rosinsky, who completed the program last year.
“Throughout the whole experience, from the speakers, to the staff, to our peers, people were all around so happy to come together to talk about Jewish culture and history,” said Rosinsky. “It was amazing to feel so welcomed and to feel truly connected to a part of yourself.”
MEOR brings in interesting and motivational guest speakers for the Maimonides program each year. This semester inviting speakers such as Lori Palatnik, Founding Director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, and Rabbi Tzvi Gluckin, a recording artist and campus rabbi.
Sophomore journalism major Morgan Caplan completed the Maimonides program last semester and said she loved the program, because it allowed her to learn about a new side of Judaism.
“Maimonides built me as a Jewish leader in the aspect that it allowed me to embrace my faith and my beliefs and incorporate these values into my life,” said Caplan. “This program is not for the money, but rather for the amazing speakers and the lessons they teach us.”
The goal of the program is to allow the students to connect in a personal and experiential way. As part of Maimonides, students will participate in a full Shabbat experience, a Jewish holiday event, a Jewish wedding and a formal graduation. This graduation ceremony is a time where students can share their impressions of the program. and receive graduation certificates as well as a $300 stipend for completing the program.
“I’m looking forward to learning with a new group of student participants,” said Koretzky. “Each cohort brings a new personality, a new blend and a new energy. Individual and group growth always emerges, but in a unique manner every time.”
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified the late Rebbetzin Esther Jungreiss as a speaker at this event.