By Samantha Ebner (Social Media Editor)
Many know Ari Israel as the current president of the Orthodox community at this university, otherwise known as Kedma, or as a senior majoring in electrical engineering. What most do not know, however, are his post graduation plans or his many contributions to this university’s Jewish community.
Israel will be graduating this May with plans to move to Israel in November and join the Israel Defense Force in April. He plans to join the Israeli Defense Forces and work in engineering or computer science for the army. “I think it is very important for people who make Aliyah to give back to the country in some sense and I think this is as good of a career opportunity as anything, so I think it is really a perfect fit for me,” Israel said.
His strong sense of Zionism emerged at a young age. When Israel was in second grade, his family moved from Stamford, Conn. to Arnona, Jerusalem for the year. He views the time when he was immersed in Israeli culture as a formative experience. “From that time, it was always like Israel very much felt like a second home, like a place that I felt very comfortable…It wasn’t until later that I decided to make Aliyah but that was definitely setting the stones,” Israel said.
After Israel graduated from SAR Academy in Riverdale, he took a gap year before enrolling at this university. He spent that time in Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, Israel.
“It was really an amazing place for me. I had a great chevra of friends who are like-minded but also fun, wanted to grow, wanted to become better people, better Jews, better learners,” said Israel.
Upon concluding his year in Yeshiva, Israel considered staying in Israel and unenrolling in college, but ultimately decided against it.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could [be religious] in a hard environment, and I could thrive in an environment where it wasn’t just given to me,” Israel said. “I’m definitely content with my decision. I’ve had a great four years here at the University of Maryland, and I’m looking forward to the next steps as well.”
Israel has been a significant contributor to the Hillel and Kedma community by being involved in existing activities and creating new ones for Jewish community on campus. During Israel’s sophomore year he held two prominent roles in Jewish Orthodox services, Gabbai Sheni first semester and Gabbai Rishon second semester.
He was also Vice President of Kedma last semester. Throughout his four years, Israel has also held informal roles to improve Kedma. Among his many contributions is the Daf Yomi club he founded. Daf Yomi is a worldwide practice where people read one page of the Talmud everyday in order to finish the six books in seven years. In the club, students rotate teaching the page everyday.
“Daf Yomi’s great, it’s a fantastic thing that Ari started. A great contribution…It’s definitely something I look forward to and hold onto because learning is a big part of my Jewish identity and to have an opportunity here is really part of my Jewish pride, my Maryland pride,” freshman accounting major Sam Auerhan said.
Israel’s involvement extends to his participation in the Amud Yomi and 9-2-9 clubs, as Mashgiach, and his occasional roles as Tuesday Night Torah presenter and Eruv checker. Israel’s heavy involvement in the Jewish community is due to his appreciation for it.
“I love this community. I love the fact that we have learning throughout Shabbat. I love the fact that we have learning throughout the week,” Israel remarked. “It’s also important to give back and to work on the other side to arrange things. I’ve really enjoyed giving back to the community in that way.”
Those who have worked with Israel praise his efforts to enhance Jewish life on campus.
“Ari’s done an incredible job leading this community during his time at Maryland,” Kedma Vice President Tamar Jacobson said. “Ari has a unique passion for this community that has allowed him to help successfully restore the events, learning, and community that existed before COVID and start plenty of new initiatives on his own.”