Rikki Lehman, Kedma’s OU-JLIC representative, taught students how to uphold the mitzvah of living in Israel, even if they live in the United States.
By Samantha Ebner
For every new month in the Jewish calendar, Rikki Lehman, Kedma’s Orthodox Union Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus representative, leads a night of learning for women in the Jewish community. The most recent one was last Thursday in the Beit Midrash room at the Maryland Hillel.
“Last year, I was talking about how we want more women-learning opportunities where women in the community can come together and learn together,” Lehman said. “And we decided once a month would be a nice idea.”
Women’s Beit Midrash night is split between Lehman teaching the girls who attended and students pairing up to learn together, otherwise known as a shiur and chavruta style. In addition to planning the learning content, Lehman brings desserts for participants to enjoy.
“I really enjoy this event because it’s a time for girls to come together, learn with Rikki and enjoy her awesome desserts,” said Micaela Thau, a junior psychology major. “I like how Rikki will teach for a little, then we’ll split up into pairs to learn more, and then come back together for Rikki to conclude the night with a lesson.”
In her role as the OU-JLIC representative, Lehman usually discusses the State of Israel as the focus of the lesson. This past Beit Midrash night, she spoke about the mitzvah in the Torah to live in Israel. She also presented sources that offered advice on how to uphold the mitzvah if one is not living there in a way that was applicable to students.
“Rav Lichtenstein spoke about the idea that even if we can’t live in Israel right now, the idea of having dreams and aspirations are so important,” Lehman said. “Focusing on how central Israel is to us as a nation is something that we should really be thinking about even if it’s not something we can practically be doing right now.”
The point of the discussion was how to keep Israel as a central value for Jews that live elsewhere. Based on the sources Lehman taught, and her own reflection, she explained how striving towards this mitzvah involves thinking about living there one day or acknowledging Israel’s importance. A debate then opened up regarding whether Israel is a special land with a distinct culture or if the people in it have made it such.
“I really liked the open dialogue and conversation,” said freshman psychology major Tzpohia Leibtag. “I argued for the side that you actually need the State of Israel because there are specific mitzvahs of how to treat your land.”
Lehman unites women students monthly to learn about Israel and enjoy her food. This time, she brought ice cream and homemade waffles.
“I think it’s just a really nice thing for just women to get together to learn,” said Yonina Semer, a junior public health major. “And Rikki always has something to say that’s nuanced and new and inspiring for college students.”