By Jack Wisniewski
For the Mitzpeh
With the news that Maryland Hillel will be losing a Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus couple at the end of the semester, they face the task of finding a replacement for the 2017 fall semester.
JLIC is a partnership program that Hillel shares with the Orthodox Union in which young Orthodox rabbinic couples live near college campuses and work with their communities, particularly through Hillel, said Assistant Director Maiya-Chard Yaron.
“The bulk of what a JLIC couple does is meet with students in small groups and one-on-one, host meals for Shabbat and holidays, teach classes and help run other programs to ensure that there is a vibrant Orthodox life on campus,” Chard-Yaron said.
Partnered universities are typically granted one JLIC couple. However, Maryland Hillel employs two JLIC couples as a pilot for the JLIC program in catering universities with large Orthodox communities.
“We have a large Orthodox community that’s very diverse,” Chard-Yaron said. “We felt that a second couple would help us better meet the needs of the Orthodox students on campus.”
Amitai Samuels, the president of Kedma, a student-run Orthodox Jewish organization, said having two JLIC couples has proven helpful.
“JLIC has reached a larger number of Orthodox students on campus just because there is more manpower,” said Samuels, a senior finance and marketing major.
After serving one semester as one of Maryland Hillel’s two JLIC couples, Alex and Ahuva Tsykin sent a letter through Kedma’s Feb. 3 email newsletter, indicating that this semester will be their last.
“After careful reflection, it has become clear that, while we love the students, Maryland Hillel is not the right fit for us,” the Tsykins wrote.
The Tsykins said they were not allowed to comment about the process.
The typical tenure of a JLIC couple depends on whether they fit or whether the couple has career aspirations, Chard-Yaron said. This university’s previous two JLIC couples, the Neumans and the Kohls, worked with Hillel for three and seven years, respectively.
“We wish Alex and Ahuva nothing but the best,” Chard-Yaron said.
As far as finding a new JLIC couple for the next semester, Hillel is currently working with the OU.
“The OU vets and interviews couples throughout the year, and presents us with candidates that would be a good fit for Maryland,” Chard-Yaron said.
Hillel’s hiring body will interview prospective couples over Skype and invite them to visit for a day to meet with students and other staff members if they seem to connect well, Chard-Yaron said.
One potential couple has even come to experience shabbat at Hillel.
“Any time we’re hiring a staff member that is going to work with students, there is a student component in the interview,” Chard-Yaron said. “They have substantial say.”
Hillel involves students from the beginning of the hiring process, but the decision comes down to the staff, Samuels said.
“Hillel is reaching out to the people who are going to be affected by the decision,” Samuels said. “Kedma informs Hillel of what they think of the decisions that they make, and we know that they work hard to choose who would be the best fit.”
Of the qualities a JLIC couple may have, connection with students, strong teaching ability and chemistry with staff are most important, Chard-Yaron said.
For Samuels, charisma and passion to take leadership are vital.
“There’s opportunity to improve this program and bring in another couple next year that will hopefully enhance the reach that JLIC has on campus,” Samuels said.