Student Blog

New Posts By:
Lauren Pace `12
Michelle Greenberg `12
Professor Lewis Glinert
Rachel Gray `15
David Silver `12
Julie Shabto `14

Shabbaton Reflections

Professor Lewis Glinert  

Being with Chabad of Dartmouth as Scholar in Residence for Shabbat  Tazria-Metzora in April 2012 was a dizzying experience -- and an intensely personal one. Looking around at 40+ buzzing students and surveying the Shabbat banquet, regally presided over by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Gray, it was hard to believe that just nine years earlier, almost to the day, my wife and I had sat in our living room with the Grays and pondered how things might pan out if they decided to make their home in the wilderness of Hanover. The tiny condo that they called their first home, in which they raised their first child, and which doubled as the first Chabad House at Dartmouth, could barely fit a dozen students -- but in those early days a dozen students was a miracle.  Their first shul was my own office at the top of Bartlett Hall, and that depended on a miracle of a different kind: On the fact that I have one of the largest, indeed spectacular, offices on campus.


Much has happened in these last breathless nine years. Once again, like the ancient tabernacle in the wilderness, Chabad in its new home at 22a School Street is bursting at the seams.  And today, Chabad at Dartmouth is of national significance. The national Sinai Scholars program, which has brought so many Dartmouth students into their first serious dialogue with the Torah and its values, has taken an exciting new turn at Dartmouth. In 2008 Rabbi Gray and I proposed holding an annual symposium at which Sinai Scholars could present original papers on Judaism in the modern world, with senior Jewish Studies scholars acting as a jury and discussants. We are now already planning the fifth of these symposia in April 2013, G-d willing.  


But back to the present. My visit, as a Scholar-in-Residence, centered on scholarship. What a magical way to usher in Shabbat. For 45 minutes, I had the challenge of taking Dartmouth's Sinai Scholars through two famous Talmudic ethical dilemmas, concerning the choice of "Who shall live and who shall die?'  In the one case, the enemy had besieged the Jewish city of Lod and were demanding that a named individual be extradited to face a possible death penalty -- or else the city would be razed. May one (should one?) give him up? And what if this were not a judicial demand but rather a demand that some Jew -- any Jew -- be given up to an anti-Semitic enemy?  In the other case, even more famous, two travelers are in the desert and one of them is holding enough water for one of them to make it to safety. Who, if anyone, should drink the water?


Later, at the meal, more learning (Isn't that the essence of a Shabbat meal?)  Rabbi Gray taught a fascinating devar torah -- and then I delivered my own. My subject -- close to my own field of linguistics:  Language as a weapon and the risk to Jews today of anti-Zionist communications campaigns. 


One of the greatest gifts that Chasidism has given the World is the Seuda Shlishit, the third Sabbath meal -- traditionally a humble affair, as the day winds down,  just as one starts to sense the week's worries drawing in.  This is when the Chasidim spin yarns and sing wistful songs. A spiritual high. But not a time to which most Dartmouth students sync their hectic lives.  But this Shabbat was different. Rabbi Gray's Sinai Scholars gathered again, the fare was as mouth-watering as ever,  and I delivered my third shiur (Torah class), on the Creation of Woman, not from man's rib, as the popular imagination has it, but as one side split off by G-d from the bisexual first human, so that each might feel wholeness when joined in a secure relationship -- and Woman's role as 'ezer', avant-garde and sentinel to her family and to her husband against the slings and arrows of the world.  

Sinai Scholars Field Trip Reflections

Rachel Gray `15 

                                    A Day in Montreal

  This past weekend a group of us from the Sinai Scholars class went to Montreal to visit a girl’s seminary school, see a mikvah, and of course go to a kosher pizza and falafel restaurant appropriately named Pita Pizza. I spent a grand total of 7 hours in car, squished in the middle between two upperclassmen (I am a freshman and therefore have no say in where I sit), to do about 4 hours worth of activities (2 of those activities revolved around eating). After 7 hours in that car, I still had no complaints.

      The day in Montreal was truly awesome for a variety of reasons. I think my favorite part was seeing Rabbi Gray with his family. During class Rabbi is not necessarily serious, but he is first and foremost a teacher. He engages us in discussion about the 10 commandments and shares his extensive knowledge of the Torah with the class. In Montreal, however, I saw Rabbi Gray as a father and husband, revealing him in a different light. His kids are adorable and seeing Rabbi and Chani interact with them really just made appreciate the beauty of a family. Rabbi Gray also seemed totally in his element with his family, and because of that I felt more at ease than when I am in the classroom (that isn’t to say that I am a mess in class – class is actually quite enjoyable).

            I also really enjoyed learning about the mikvah and listening to Rabbi New discuss the act of not touching other women. When Rabbi Nu told us that by not touching women other than his wife, he was able to engage in purely intellectual relationships with other women, I thought, “He is so right!” I find that touch between sexes always complicates matters and blurs the lines between being friends and more than friends. His take on reasons for not touching other women was refreshing and gave an explanation to a cultural practice I never quite understood. With regards to the mikvah, although I do not know whether I would or could even be able to take part in the practice of using a mikvah and leaving my husband for a period of days, it definitely made sense. What I found inspiring about Rabbi New’s talk was learning how important marriage is to the Jewish faith.

            A lot of the trip also consisted of me learning reasons for and clarifying misconceptions I had regarding certain cultural practices. I appreciated learning about the kosher laws and the reasons behind them. I also really enjoyed talking with the girls at the seminary about marriage. I was relieved to learn that being set up on a date did not necessarily mean you had to marry each other and that an “arranged marriage” did not imply an “against your will” marriage. It was also interesting to compare my experience with boys with the seminary girls’ experience with boys. I do not think I would enjoy being in a seminary, but to a certain extent I found myself thinking that these girls knew how to date. In my experience, girls generally date for marriage while boys (at least in college) do not. People in college and I think throughout life enter relationships with aspirations different from their partner’s. I feel that the partnerships of these girls could be more successful because there is an explicit and intended goal for dating each other that we do not necessarily acknowledge when dating in our society.

Overall, the trip to Montreal was a really fun. Spending that much time in a confined space with people lends itself to making friends. After having gone to Montreal, I feel more comfortable in the classroom because I now consider most of the students as friends in addition to peers. 

Sinai Scholars Reflections

David Silver `12 

Shabbat dinner with the Sinai Scholars group was a good start to the field trip weekend. Our discussion with Professor Glinnert was very engaging and provoked some difficult questions about when, if ever, it is permissible to kill under Jewish law. The answers are often complicated, but the discussions shine light on these difficult cases. Closing Shabbat with dinner on Saturday night was also enjoyable, with another interesting talk by Professor Glinnert about the creation of woman.

Our field trip to Montreal was a good experience to get off campus with other Sinai Scholar students and see certain Jewish practices that are not readily available in a small town like Hanover. I enjoyed learning about the mikvah and those practices in an engaging talk by Rabbi Nu (spelling?). The visit to the Yeshiva was also very interesting and gave a window into the lives of students receiving a Jewish education. Lunch and dinner were great bonding times with the other Sinai Scholars, as well as the long drives to and from Montreal. The only complaint about the day was that we spent roughly the same amount of time in the car as in Montreal, but that may be the only option given our location in rural New Hampshire.

Jewish Life at Dartmouth

 By Julie Shabto '14

When I first came to Dartmouth, I did not know what to expect from Jewish life on campus. Coming from a town with a significant Jewish population, I wasn’t sure how I felt about attending a school with a smaller Jewish community. Judaism has always been a big part of my life. At home, my family belongs to a reform synagogue; we are not extremely observant, but we do have consistent Shabbat dinners, eat kosher meat, celebrate all the Jewish holidays and attend synagogue on high holidays. I became a Bat Mitzvah and continued my formal Jewish education through Confimation.

During my junior year of high school, when I visited Dartmouth for the first time, my mom insisted that we see the Hillel. I knew that a Jewish establishment existed at Dartmouth, but honestly, at the time, I wasn’t thinking about how I would spend the Jewish holidays on campus. As an incoming freshman when I had to fill out “religious preference,” I learned that there was Chabad at Dartmouth. I didn’t check off Chabad, because I thought Chabad was geared for ultra-orthodox Jews and I had heard primarily negative stereotypes about the Chabad community at large.

Shortly after arriving on campus, my trip leader from First-Year DOC trips invited me to attend Shabbat dinner at the Chabad house. I was excited about the invite to an event where I could meet other Jews on campus, but to tell you the truth, I wasn’t so psyched that it was a “Chabad” event. Yet, I put my preconceived notions aside and went to Shabbat dinner.

Looking back, I can say without reservation that deciding to go to Chabad freshman fall was one of the best decisions I made that year. At my first Shabbat dinner, not only did I learn that Jews of all levels of observance are part of the Chabad community at Dartmouth but also I realized how important it is to have a close-knit, Jewish community away from home, for me. I also now recognize that feeling comfortable talking to Rabbi Gray and Chani about anything that is going on in my life is incredibly valuable.

After countless Shabbat dinners, participating in Sinai Scholars last spring, and now as a member of the Chabad board, I am proud to say that Jewish life at Dartmouth is strong and growing and I am lucky to be a part of it. I have met some of my closest friends through Chabad, and I introduced other friends to Chabad so that they too can be part of this strong Jewish community on campus.

For me, Judaism is about tradition and community. Chabad is a community where I feel welcome and supported, and celebrating Shabbat each week and Jewish holidays with friends is a tradition that has certainly enriched my experience at Dartmouth

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