FreshFest 2015 Facilitators

Here are your FreshFest 2015 Facilitators!

Samantha Monk

11754815_10153437235109020_3712316561709172656_oHello, Freshmen! My name is Sammy and I am currently the Vice President of Engagement on the Hillel Jewish Student Board, where one of my biggest responsibilities is planning FreshFest. Throughout the year I also help to plan and coordinate social events, reach out to students about their thoughts on our events, and send out a lot of e-mails and social media blasts – so get ready! Besides being highly involved with Hillel I am a creative team member of The Newhouse, a full student-run advertising agency, a dancer for Orange Pulse Dance Troupe and a member of Greek life. I am a junior studying Advertising and I am from Pleasantville, NY. I look forward to meeting all of you and please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns about the program!

Kara Glass

11831772_10153437238364020_856837062323522034_nHey incoming freshmen! My name is Kara and I’m the FreshFest Coordinator. I’m beyond excited to get to know all of you and I also can’t wait for you to experience FreshFest (which is going to be the best 3 days ever). FreshFest will get you ready for college, introduce you to other incoming freshmen as well as upperclassmen, and you’ll go into your freshmen year feeling like you already own the place. Here’s a little about me. I’m from Seattle and an Inclusive Elementary and Special Education major. My fun facts are that I dabble in the art of constantly eating food (if you can’t tell from this pic) and love traveling to exotic places. I can’t wait to meet all of you!!

Sarah Schugel

11828593_10153440310874020_2993212078782628341_nShalom! My name is Sarah and I’m from Manhattan Beach, California. I’m a senior studying Policy and Political Science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship. I’m involved in various organizations on campus but my claim to fame is being Queen (President) of the Hillel Jewish Student Union. If you’re looking for a place to study on campus that is not the library I’d suggest setting yourself up at Cafe Kubal. They have great coffee and good vibes there. FreshFest is going to be a blast, I can’t wait to meet each and everyone of you! Peace. Love. Hillel

Leni Weisberg

11822388_10153441544389020_1374100339382352905_nHey, Freshmen! My name is Leni. I am a rising sophomore from Toronto, Canada majoring in Television, Radio, and Film. At SU, I am the Communication Vice President of the Hillel Jewish Student Union (follow us on Twitter and Instagram @suhillel!!!),  a member of a social sorority, and CitrusTV. I love attending weekly Shabbat Dinners and enjoying the amazing Hillel community. My advice to all Freshmen is to be open to new experiences and friends and to seize every opportunity. I can’t wait to meet you all!

Brian Friedman

11147165_10153441546574020_7133928794498570393_oHi, my name is Brian and I am a sophomore majoring in Marketing with a minor in Sport Management. I’m from outside of Philadelphia in Mount Laurel, NJ. At Hillel, I am a member of the Jewish Student Union as the Financial Vice President. Besides Hillel, I am very involved on campus, as a member of a social fraternity, and an avid Syracuse sports fan. Some advice that I want to offer to freshmen is to take advantage of every opportunity that Syracuse offers you and to find a club or community to get involved with during your first semester.

Sam Sinykin

11825223_10153446595904020_6577788418124286891_nHi! My name is Sam, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I am entering my sophomore year at Syracuse University. I am a Communication and Rhetorical Studies major with a minor in Business Management. I am honored to be the Community Engagement Vice President of Hillel Jewish Student Union Board for this term. Other than being on the Hillel Board, I have participated in OrangeSeeds, a first year leadership empowerment program that primarily focused on community service in the wider Syracuse community. I am also a tutor for an organization called Young Scholars which is run through Hendricks Chapel. Finally, I am part of a social fraternity on campus. My advice for incoming freshman is to enjoy everything Syracuse has to offer, make the most of every extra-curricular opportunity that arises, and to ask as many questions to peer advisors, fellow upperclassmen, and professors about the amazing academic and social programs that are offered at Syracuse University. I am very excited to meet you all in a few weeks!

Lyla Birenbaum

11870746_10153451774804020_2520708871196152030_nHi Freshmen! My name is Lyla and I’m from San Diego, California. I’m starting my sophomore year double majoring in Psychology and Neuroscience for Pre-Med. I work as an ELA tutor in local elementary schools for the SU Literacy Corps and represent Hillel’s student union as the Vice President of Religious Life. I’m very excited to meet you all and want to remind you to bring an open mind for when you arrive. These are your years of opportunity and saying ‘no’ to trying new things will close doors you didn’t even know were open. So get ready to have some fun and we’ll see you soon!

Jay Alpert

11863335_10153451778554020_8244006623942520181_nHi! My name is Jay and I am an incoming sophomore from Niantic, Connecticut. On campus I am a Communication and Rhetorical Studies major and intend on double majoring in Economics. I am the current Israel VP of the Hillel Jewish Student Union board, the Aipac Campus liaison, and am involved in Intramural sports. My advice to freshmen would be to keep an open mind to all of the changes that your first year at college brings. If you ever feel overwhelmed, the Hillel community is always there for support! I look forward to meeting everyone!!

Molly Smith

11058404_10153446656349020_6335411383577054010_oHi everyone, my name is Molly and I’m a senior Broadcast & Digital Journalism/Finance dual from Montville, NJ. On campus, I’m a reporter/producer at CitrusTV, play on the club tennis team, and I’m involved in social Greek life. I’m also a huge CrossFit junkie. I like to call myself a Hillel “regular”- I don’t hold any positions, just a fan of Shabbat dinners and good company! This will be my fourth year at FreshFest! I think roommates are a huge part of your freshmen experience and I can certainly attest to that. If you did random or maybe just not sure about what to expect, feel free to reach out to me!

Sarah Sasson

11872247_10207575779095341_529949995301203427_oHi! I’m Sarah and I’m from Princeton, New Jersey. I’m a rising senior (class of 2016) studying Advertising in Newhouse with minors in Marketing and Psychology. On campus, I’m in the acapella group Oy Cappella, I am in a sorority, and I am involved in the campus advertising club, TNH. I love going to Hillel Friday night Shabbats and I was a FreshFest facilitator last year. Before you start your Freshman year, you should know that the next four years will be the fastest of your life. You should find things you’re passionate about and get involved on campus. Meet as many people as possible. Make sure you live up every single minute. You’ll thank me later. And go to Shabbat at Hillel on Fridays! Expand your social circles. Make friends. It’s worth it every single time.

David Shahar

11817122_10207575962579928_946837068282875457_nMy name is David  and I am from Los Angeles, California. I am a senior in the Falk School majoring in Sport Management and minoring in Information Management and Technology. I am an alumni of Freshfest and my experiences during the event made me want to come back and help you have the same experience I had. I am a member of greek life and have worked in the athletic department since my freshman year. One piece of advice I would give you guys is to not be afraid to reach out to anyone. We have all been in your shoes and being in such a welcoming environment such as Syracuse, I know everyone will have no problem answering your questions.

Dave Kimelman

11700749_10153460200059020_173546857388833566_oHey guys, my name’s Dave! I’m a senior from Pittsburgh, PA and am majoring in Policy Studies and Political Science with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. On campus I help run a group called LIME: An Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue Group and am a past Hillel board member. My advice is that your biggest regrets will be the chances you don’t take. Put yourself out there and try something new, you never know what might happen! And get to know as many people as you can, the people around Hillel are pretty awesome and it’s a great community to be a part of.

Max Darrow

11850430_10153460208409020_4913266780328814569_oMy name is Max and I’m from Menlo Park, California (just outside San Francisco). I’m a senior majoring in Broadcast and Digital Journalism and dual-minoring in Political Science and Psychology. On campus, I’m a 6 o’clock news anchor and political talk show host at the student-run television station CitrusTV. I also am a member of the all-male a cappella group called Otto Tunes (check us out @OttoTunes and like us on Facebook), a member of a Greek organization, and a part of U100 as well. I did FreshFest when I first got to ‘Cuse, and this is my second year being a facilitator. Last year, I was a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel. Piece of advice? Try to step out of your comfort zone and join a totally different organization than you’d think – I wasn’t in choir or anything like that in high school and I ended up joining an a cappella group!

Jenna Salomon

11828698_10153461508244020_7857799533233740665_nHi everyone!! I’m Jenna from Westchester, NY. I’m a sophomore studying Public Relations in Newhouse, and I’m also apart of the Fashion and Beauty Communications Milestone program. On campus I’m the Social Media Intern at Hillel, an online writer for Equal Time Magazine, and in a social sorority. I also run my own blog, My biggest advice to incoming freshmen is to make the most out of this year and don’t be nervous!! You’re going to meet your best friends, learn a ton about yourself, and have so much fun. I met my best friends through FreshFest, and it made transitioning to college so easy…so get ready!

Jaime Weiss

11112320_10153461580464020_7079425970256341371_oHi everyone, my name is Jamie and I’m a Junior Broadcast and Digital Journalism major and Psychology and Information Management Technology dual minor. I am from outside Dallas, Texas! First Off, Mazels on choosing to attend ‘Cuse, it’s the best decision you or I have ever made and I promise you won’t regret it. After falling in love with Hillel during Freshfest 2013, I served as the Hillel Jewish Student Union’s Vice President of Communications for 2014. I was fortunate enough to be a facilitator last year and I’m so excited to be one again this year to meet all of y’all this August! When I’m not hanging at Hillel, I’m working at Citrus TV, the on-campus TV station where I’m a weather girl, reporter and host for our morning show, Juice and Java. I’ve also been on the Newhouse Student Representative Committee for two years, am a Newhouse Ambassador/Tour Guide and serve as the philanthropy director for my greek organization. My biggest piece of advice for an incoming student is to take advantage of all the amazing opportunities that SU has to offer. Do something you never thought you would, join a new club/organization and just step outside your comfort zone. Can’t wait to meet all of you, GO ORANGE!

Jeff Spivack

11873547_10153463109374020_3188747109239515042_nMy name is Jeff and I am Television, Radio, Film major from CT graduating in 2017. I currently run LIME: An Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue Group on campus. I aspire to operate a small personal apiary in adulthood. One time I fell off the monkey bars and broke my arm (true). I am currently saving up to buy a canoe and will accept tax-deductible donations. I also dabble in the ancient art of Ultimate Frisbee, so if your interested in the most extreme test of mental and physical agility that exists in the world, and I deem you worthy of basking in the shining light of our team’s glory, maybe I’ll bring you to a practice sometime.

Samantha Kevy

11899788_10153464024099020_1145557510165440183_nMy name is Samantha and I am a sophomore from Rockville, MD. I am majoring in Elementary and Special Education. Last year I participated in FreshFest as a freshman and have been an active participant since, attending Hillel Shabbat dinners, holiday services and other programming. This coming year, I will be a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel. On campus I am also a member of the swim club and am involved in Greek life. We all know coming to Syracuse can be a bit overwhelming, but participating in FreshFest will already make it feel a little smaller and everyone should know that you always have a place to come here at Hillel for anything you need!

Hannah Seigel

11878895_10153464056594020_1829033575856772976_oHi Everyone! I hope you all are having a great summer. My name is Hannah, and I’m from Pittsburgh, PA. This fall I’ll be entering my final year in SU’s School of Architecture. On campus I’ve been involved in the School of Architecture as a Peer Advisor, Student Liaison, and Digital Fabrication Monitor. I have also been on Relay for Life’s Luminaria Committee, a tutor for Literacy Corps, a local Hebrew School teacher, and an intern at Hillel. The ultimate advice I can give to any incoming freshmen is to get involved. The best way to make friends and meet new people is by exploring the many opportunities SU has to offer.

Jaqob Pirogovsky

11908887_10153465939084020_7535611975813810667_oHey guys, my name is Jaqob and I’m from the Jersey Shore, and I’m a senior studying TV-Radio-Film and Psychology. On campus, I’m involved in JERK magazine and Loud and Clear. This is my third year at Freshfest! Something to know is that the food on Shabbat at Hillel is amazing… so much better than dining hall food. Excited to see you there!

Matt Trullii

11880382_10153466124424020_1970084083593463527_n Hi all! My name is Matt and I’m from a small city called Melrose, just north of Boston, MA. I am a fifth year architecture student and am involved in architecture organizations and Hillel. In Hillel, I have been involved in Birthright, Alternate Spring Break, and of course, FreshFest. One piece of advice that I would give to freshmen would be to explore your surroundings, on and off campus.

Noah Mintz

11221919_10153469027604020_3162623115790203241_oHey guys! My name is Noah and I’m a sophomore Television, Radio, and Film major from Los Angeles, California (west coast best coast). On campus, I am involved in Greek life (Acropolis Pizza), Ottonomous Productions, and am also a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel. Before getting to school, I’d highly suggest packing. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that every single incoming freshman is in the same position as you. You’re not alone when it comes to making new friends or being in a new environment, so embrace it and have fun.

Lauren Petrocci

11889633_10153469055179020_6054381997357911743_nHi, my name is Lauren and I am a rising senior, studying Economics and hoping to pursue an MBA. Originally I am from Fairfax, Virginia, right outside of DC. Last year I was a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel and now I work part time as the Student Development Associate. My one piece of advice is to be as open minded as possible, try everything that comes your way.

Scott Slutsky

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 5.28.05 PMMy name is Scott and I’m a sophomore from Glastonbury, Connecticut. I am double majoring in marketing and finance and minoring in sport management. I was a FreshFest participant last year, and regularly attended Hillel services and programs. This upcoming year, I will be a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel. Additionally, I am a member of the ultimate frisbee team, the sport management club, and take intramural sports very seriously.

Lindsey Heller

11866273_10153471621049020_763813812532609159_nHi everyone! My name is Lindsey and I am a rising sophomore. I am majoring in Marketing and Real Estate in the Whitman School of Management. I am from Cleveland, Ohio and have lived there my whole life. On campus I am involved in Greek Life and with SU Hillel. I am a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel and I am also a FreshFest facilitator (if you couldn’t guess). One thing I would like you all to know about me is that I am obsessed with camp and just spent my eleventh summer there. I go to camp in Georgia at a camp called Ramah Darom. Looking forward to meeting you all!

David Tye


What’s up guys my name is David and I’m going into my senior year. I’m currently majoring in Exercise Science with a minor in Psychology. I did FreshFest as a freshmen and I met a lot of cool people I still hang out with but this is my first year being a facilitator. I’m currently in an a capella group Oycappella (the Jewish one) and I like to stay active by doing a bunch of intramural sports. I was also a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel as well. If there was one piece of advice I would give, it would be that you should step out of your comfort zone because college is the best place you can do that.

Hannah Tognola

11866452_10153472901294020_3091940128548576446_nMy name is Hannah and I’m from Chatham, NJ. I’m currently a Junior studying Psychology and Neuroscience. My involvement at Syracuse includes being in greek life, being a board member of Active Minds – a club which raises awareness for mental health on campus- and, lastly, I was a Peer Network Engagement Intern for Hillel last year. I also spent the last two years as part of the Syracuse University Marching Band and pep band, where I played the Mellophone.

Rebecca Leon

11900131_10153473599389020_6869626146493420697_oHi!! My name is Rebecca and I am from Philadelphia, PA. I am going to be a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Communications Sciences and Disorders (CSD), also known as the Speech and Audiology major. Just last year, I started a chapter of Challah for Hunger, where we bake and sell delicious Challah’s and all the profits go towards helping fight hunger!! Buy some! Help make them! (Ask me how!!) I also volunteered at the Salvation Army in the city of Syracuse which was an amazing experience. My favorite part about Hillel is being able to see all my old friends and meet new friends and it is really a warm welcoming environment.

Libby Harris

11890601_10153474554884020_4242313895812393271_oHi! My name is Libby, I’m from Minnetonka, Minnesota, and a sophomore in Chemical Engineering. I’m involved in Engineering Excelerators, Engineering Ambassadors, and American Institute of Chemical Engineers on campus. This year I’m going to be a member of one of the University’s choirs and Syracuse University Outing Club. I’m pretty much a Hillel regular with my roommate and I try and go to Shabbat every week. I can’t wait to meet you! P.S. Syracuse rains a lot, don’t forget a quality umbrella and boots!

Lev Rosenzweig-Ziff

11863219_10153473703894020_8057083986727550422_nMy name is Lev and I am from Newton Massachusetts. I am currently entering my junior year at Syracuse University with a dual major in Information Management Technology/ Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises. I am on the executive board of the Entrepreneurship Club as well as an active member in Enactus. This is my first year as a facilitator and I did FreshFest as a freshmen. Finally, I absolutely love both cooking and eating food and will doing a lot of both this upcoming year!

Jenny Rehkugler

11880660_10153475506584020_1147443084452147556_nHi everyone! Can’t wait to be back at Syracuse in just a few short days. My name is Jenny and I’m from Vermont. I’m going to be a senior this year studying Public Relations with a minor in Marketing. I am involved with Greek life and I also sing in an a Capella group called Oy Cappella (it’s the Jewish one on campus). My sophomore year I was a Peer Network Engagement Intern at Hillel and also did Alternative Spring Break in Oklahoma. I’m a regular at Hillel and go to Shabbat every week with my friends. This past semester I was abroad in Israel so I’m more excited than ever to be reunited with everyone at Syracuse!

Zack Hescheles

11880438_10153476814209020_8972232105121856664_nHi, my name is Zack, but everyone just calls me Hesh. I am a rising senior, although I still have another year after this one, I am studying Finance and Accounting in the Whitman School of Management. I am involved with intramural sports as well as Hillel on campus. I did FreshFest as a freshmen and have been a facilitator before, I was also a Peer Network Engagement Intern, and recently did Birthright. Get ready for the best 4 years of your life!

Ilana Siegal

11924766_10153477040729020_2310813065527024717_nMy name is Ilana and I’m a rising junior from Cleveland, Ohio studying International Relations and Pre-Medicine. Throughout the past two years I have been really involved in Hillel, and I feel like it’s my second home. Freshman year I wrote for the Hillel newsletter and last year I was a Peer Network Engagement Intern. On campus, I am involved in Syracuse University Ambulance and a community service fraternity. One thing you should know before arriving on campus is that Hillel is a great support system, and one of many here on campus, so reach out to the older FreshFest facilitators and don’t be afraid to ask for help! We were all in your shoes just a few years ago, and now we are so excited to help make Syracuse your new home.

Ellie Winkelmann

11012838_10153482377714020_3583147665070296428_nEllie is from Richmond Virginia and will be a junior in VPA studying Directing and Casting for the Theatre. She loves calzones, can beat box, she’s allergic to strawberries, and she’s a big a fan of remixes of old 80’s love song ballads! Her favorite color is green, like Franklin the turtle. Her advice to freshman is to try everything once, even the lasagna in the dining hall! You might surprise yourself!

Jacky Gold


Hi everyone! I’m Jacky from northern New Jersey and I’m a junior Acting major. On campus, I’m involved with Greek life, Black Box Players, and of course, Hillel. I did Freshfest as a freshman and I’m still best friends with some of the people I met there. I was the Engagement VP last year and now I always make it to Shabbat dinners, holidays and events. If I could give you any advice it’d be to remember that college is a time of discovery and one that you won’t get to repeat so forget about fomo (it’s a dumb trend anyway) and just do your own thing.

Ali Epstein

11224858_10153480244739020_8938053711133713172_nHi there! My name is Ali. I am from Dix Hills, NY and am currently a Sophomore here at ‘Cuse! I am majoring in Writing and Rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences. On campus, I love hanging out on the quad, getting healthy milkshakes at Stronghearts, working out when I can, and just being with my friends! I also love Shabbat dinners at Hillel every Friday night – it’s a great way to stay involved with Hillel, learn about upcoming events, and stay connected to my Jewish roots.

Joe Schermer

11870638_10153480099714020_5631021126548641177_nMy name is Joe. I am a Senior, from the best city in the world, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania*. I am a Biology Major following a pre-med track. On campus I’m in Greek Life, a Pre-Med Fraternity, Oy Cappella (Jewish A Cappella group), and Recreational Sports. I participated in Freshfest my freshmen year and I am excited to be a facilitator. Get pumped for Cuse!!!

Stephanie Haber

11947383_10153484137649020_1570309354886995426_nHey guys, my name is Stephanie and I’m from Long Island, NY. I’m a rising sophomore and I’m majoring in Nutrition/Dietetics with a minor in Psychology. I am super involved in Student Association (aka student government). I’m an assembly rep, member of the student life committee, and on the board of elections and membership. In addition, I’m a tutor on campus and I’m in the honors college. I love bringing my friends with me to Shabbat dinner and I make sure to stop by whenever there’s a barbecue going on. My advice to all the freshmen would be to meet as many new people as you can because everybody is looking for friends!

Simon Weiss

11953441_10153484576684020_5329869770456998703_oMy name is Simon and I am a Junior Sport Management Major from Millburn New Jersey. During the school year I am an English Language Conversation Partner and Intern with IMG. My favorite trip this summer was going to Israel through the Hillel at Syracuse Birthright program. This summer I was a Sports Properties Intern for Madison Square Garden. I love going to music festivals – get excited for Juice Jam.

Louis Bookoff

11902495_10153485238374020_4178582449593937053_nHey everyone, my name is Louis Bookoff. I am from Baltimore, Maryland and am currently a junior, majoring in Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises and Finance. On campus I am involved in the Couri Hatchery Business Incubator in the Whitman School of Management. I participated in Fresh Fest my freshman year and was pumped to come back as a peer facilitator. My advice would be throw out all preconceptions you have about college and look for ways to get out of your comfort zone during the year.

Yonah Nimmer


My name is Yonah and I live in Los Angeles, CA. I am a TRF major in Newhouse and am going into my senior year. While I loved studying abroad in London this past semester, I definitely missed being on campus. You guys are all so lucky you have 4 years at the most incredible school in the world. Take advantage of every moment.

AIPAC Policy Conference 2015 In Review: One Student’s Perspective

This first week in March marked the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference. This massive gathering in Washington D.C. brought together a vast array of individuals incorporating various religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The singular value they all shared was their support of the U.S-Israel relationship.

AIPAC prides itself on being bipartisan; its supporters’ range from Republicans Lindsay Graham and Eric Cantor to liberals such as Democratic Senators Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer. There were an astounding 3,000 pro-Israel students including myself that traveled to the conference of 16,000 overall participants.

Throughout the course of the event, students were granted opportunities to meet various players in politics and media revolving around Israel and the Middle East. Ari Shavit, author of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel spoke in a breakout session as a panelist along with pro-Israel student activists. His insights fostered compelling dialogue that allowed for participants to learn from each other’s experiences and best practices.

In a widely publicized move, the Obama administration sent the United States permanent representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, to address the conference. She spoke about how constant resolutions condemning Israel, coupled with the Palestinian Authority’s premature bid for statehood have proven to be counterproductive in the peace process. It is clear, she said, that the only solution is bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. She also noted that the United Nations Security Council has failed to pass more multilateral sanctions on Iran, a step that is critical to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is dismantled. Power also spoke at length how her and her Israeli counterpart, Ron Prosor, are working to fight anti-Semitism across the globe. Power finished her speech by emphasizing that in this violence ravaged region there is one stable democratic nation that has consistently been not only an ally to the United States, but a vital asset in achieving security and peace in the Middle East.

The most notable speaker, however, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, delivered a passionate speech clearing the air for his congressional appearance. The Prime Minister emphasized his respect for President Obama, and made it clear that policy differences between the administrations would not undermine their close relationship. Netanyahu also made his desire to stay out of American politics clear. He remarked, “The last thing I want is for Israel to become a partisan Issue.”

The participants all came bringing unique perspectives and reasons of why they support the state of Israel. All 16,000 people walking the convention center halls carried interesting facts and talking points they have learned from their respective experiences that they share to amalgamate in to other participants’ personal ensemble of information. This created stronger understanding of the issues and ultimately created a better dialogue to bring home.

The students at policy conference embodied the bipartisan nature of the organization. The President of College Republicans as well as the President of College Democrats both support the state of Israel and are active AIPAC participants and leaders. In our increasingly polarized political climate, support for the state of Israel might be the only issue that the two major parties can agree on.

For students such as myself, home means my college campus. With anti-Israel sentiment growing in popularity, the conference served pro-Israel students like me looking for support from around the country. With the number of Jews on college campuses far outweighing that of detractor groups, it was made clear that the indifference of Jews to Israel and Judaism is the biggest threat to Israel and Judaism. The message I will take home from this policy conference is one of proactive participation through involvement and education.

By Jay Alpert

Ask a Chaplain – Fasting on Yom Kippur

Why Do You Fast?

The Jewish High Holy Days are almost here.  Jewish people, all over the world, will be engaged in religious services and reflection during the two holidays that mark the start of the new Jewish year: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  The first of these holidays is Rosh Hashanah, a joyous celebration filled with sweet foods and gratitude for the previous year.  About a week later, the mood changes for Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement, marks a time when the Jewish people ask for forgiveness and repent for their sins.  It is customary for healthy members of the community to engage in a 25-hour fast for Yom Kippur.  During this time they are not allowed to consume food or water.  There are additional restrictions as well:

·         No wearing of leather shoes
·         No bathing or washing
·         No anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions
·         No hanky panky
·         All of the usual Shabbat / holiday restrictions

Other religions and philosophies have similar rituals.  Muslims worldwide observe a month of fasting from sun-up to sun-down for Ramadan. This annual observance is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.  Fasting can be practiced by Buddhists during times of intensive meditation.  The Lenten, fast observed in the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, is a forty-day partial fast to commemorate the fast observed by Christ during his temptation in the desert.

Why fast and participate in these difficult and challenging rules? I believe that the ancient Jews who developed these restrictions for Yom Kippur believed that the fast cleansed the soul.  Without food and water the body becomes weak but the mind gains focus from distractions and temptations.  When you cleanse your body of material things you are preparing your body for reflection.

These fasts also teach self-control.  All of the healthy adults I know, over the age of 13, without pre-existing medical conditions or health issues, can fast for 25 hours without incident on Yom Kippur.  Many, though, do not have the mental strength and self-control to follow through.  Our bodies and minds are not trained to ‘go without’ for even a single day.  Self-control is an important lesson to consider on Yom Kippur when we are repenting for our sins from the previous year.  If we all could learn a bit more self control perhaps we would need to ask for less forgiveness?

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I believe that it levels the playing field in the community.  When we walk into services on Yom Kippur, the most important time to come together as Jewish people, everyone is equally stinky and disheveled.  Everyone, regardless of privilege and income, experiences the hunger that is associated with food insecurity (In 2012, 15 percent of households / 17.6 million households were food insecure), for instance.  Social class and status, to some degree, no longer matter as much.

Fasting is a personal choice.  I would never judgment those that cannot or do not choose to participate.  But, for those that do fast, I encourage you to think about your fasting ritual.  What does it mean for you?  How does it help you connect to your community?  Why do you choose to participate?


The Beautiful Captive

Prepare to be uncomfortable.  It’s another Brian Small D’var.

Today’s Parsha, Ki Teitzei, consists of 74 of the Torah’s 613 commandments.  By percentage, in case you are wondering, that means that means that we are covering 12% of the road map that G-d laid out for his chosen people.  These commandments include, but are not limited to:

·         The inheritance rights of the firstborn
·         The wayward and rebellious son
·         Burial and dignity of the dead
·         Returning a lost object
·         Sending away the mother bird before taking her young
·         The duty to erect a safety fence around the roof of one’s home

And much, much more.

In addition to these commandments, there rules for what is known as ‘the beautiful captive’.  These are essentially the opening lines of the Parsha.

If you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your God, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives,
and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her, you may take [her] for yourself as a wife.
You shall bring her into your home, and she shall shave her head and let her nails grow.
And she shall remove the garment of her captivity from upon herself, and stay in your house, and weep for her father and her mother for a full month. After that, you may be intimate with her and possess her, and she will be a wife for you.
And it will be, if you do not desire her, then you shall send her away wherever she wishes, but you shall not sell her for money. You shall not keep her as a servant, because you have afflicted her.

I had a tough time getting through these lines and focusing on the rest of the Parsha.  This disturbed me in a very meaningful way, especially given current events.  I was disturbed as a father of a daughter, a husband to a wife, a brother to a sister, and a son to a mother.

The Torah was written and given to the people of Israel at a different time in history and I certainly understand the importance of historical context.  But this section comes across as horribly misogynistic and perpetuates the treatment of women as property, or chattel, in a negative and degrading way.  Enemy of the state of Israel, or the Jewish people, or not, the modern interpretation of this section reveals and illustrates a horrible way to treat women.

Historical rabbinic commentary actually speaks to the civility of allowing for ‘the beautiful captive’ to weep and mourn her father and mother for an entire month before forcibly sexually assaulting her.  Additionally, if you lose your desire for ‘the beautiful captive’ it is consider merciful to not sell her into slavery or keep her as a servant.  These are considered virtues as other cultures at the time did not preclude such behavior with their own captives.

The worst part about this section of the Parsha is that this misogynist social mentality is still prevalent today.  Consider the recent story of [lots of air quotes coming] “leaked” pictures of naked celebrities.  When this story first hit the blogosphere and twitterverse, words like “leaked” and “hacked” were common when, in fact, we should have been using terms like “criminal”, “sexual assault”, or “sexual crimes”.  I will admit that there was a personal morbid curiosity to peek at pictures of Jennifer Laurence or Kate Upton when they were presented as “leaked” photos.  It seemed like these photos were leaked in the same way that a movie leaks pictures from the set to increase buzz or a sports team leaks rumors of a free agent signing to motivate ticket sales.  These cases do no harm to the parties involved and are often INTENDED, secretly, for distribution.  But now I feel ashamed for thinking this way.  Looking at these pictures would make me complicit to a sexual crime.  It perpetuates misogyny.

It doesn’t take much to understand why a hacker would commit this sort of criminal act.  The rush of exposing famous women, successfully infiltrating a complicated computer network, and the coverage that the act receives must surely be a rush.  But, socially, we have not advanced much since the days of the Torah.  The justification remains the same: it’s okay, if you are a man in a position of power and privilege, to marginalize a beautiful woman IF she is desirable.  Jennifer Laurence, and others implicated in the sexual crime, were treated in the same way as the ‘the beautiful captive’.  And that’s disgusting.  It’s not okay.

You cannot escape these issues on campus, as well.  A recently released study, conducted over a 20-year period, asked some 2,000 college-age men questions like the following:

“Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?”


“Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn’t cooperate?”

About 1 in 16 men answered “yes” to these or similar questions.  ‘The beautiful captive’ is yours, if you want her, by force, if necessary.

Particularly egregious, Cazenovia College, right down the road, where I used to work, reported 12.12 forcible sex offenses per 1,000 students.  This statistic includes offences against men, I believe, as well. Forcible sexual offences are the particularly violent and heinous sexual crimes that include rape and sodomy.  And, of course, these are only the ones that are reported and processed.  There are, no-doubt, countless un-processed similar offences.  Cazenovia College was the worst of the 590 New York colleges, universities and schools surveyed.  We are technically their Hillel also, in case you are wondering.

Syracuse University, in comparison, came in at about 1.28 forcible sex offences per 1,000 students.  This number may seem significantly better than Cazenovia’s number, but it is artificially low because of the higher number of non-traditional and commuting students at Syracuse that are not within the Cazenovia College demographics.

What’s typical?  The average rate among New York State’s 590 colleges, universities and schools was 0.36 offenses per 1,000 students, according to federal data.  We are well above the state average.

Side note: I would be more than happy to talk about the Advocacy Center issues on campus in another D’var or conversationally at dinner.  This story is deeper than you think it is… It’s a D’var for another time.

The Torah speaks to us in many ways.  Sometimes it speaks with a truth that resonates through the ages and through our people’s collective history.  This week, it spoke to me differently.  It identified a societal problem that was socially acceptable at the time of the Torah’s creation and outwardly criticized, but still socially prevalent today.

Will it always be this way?  Not if your generation takes a more active approach to dispelling the myths that surround sexual assault and violence.  You must call-out your peers for their actions.  We must stop blaming victims of sexual assault because of the way they dress.  Don’t look at pictures of Jennifer Laurence, Kate Upton, and others put online in a criminal act.  Victims must report their crimes even under the most difficult and terrible of circumstances.  You must be aware of and make OTHERS aware of the link between the irresponsible consumption of alcohol and drugs and the prevalence of sexual assaults.  Student athletes must be held to the same judicial standards as non-athletes.  You must have open discussions about the frequency of slut-shaming on social media.  Feminism should not be perceived as a four-letter word.  And much, much, more.

Until we take these steps, ‘the beautiful captive’ is alive and well and has a 1-in-5 chance of being sexually assaulted on campus before she graduates according to national statistics.

Shabbat Shalom


D’var Torah – Week of Friday, August 29th

“You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your G-d, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment.

“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words.

“Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your G-d, is giving you.”

These are the openining three verses of this week’s Parshah, Shoftim – Hebrew for Judges, and the first word of the Parshah, which serves to set up a basic social structure for the Israelites as they enter the Holy Land.

Some important, basic rules are laid out – judges and magistrates and prophets will be given the responsibility of handing down judgment, and a standard of two witnesses is explained as required in death-penalty cases. It even covers how to handle false testimony and incongruous witnesses

Overall, Shoftim establishes a pretty comprehensive framework for justice. However, in it’s basic premise, Shoftim establishes a kind of “fall-back” in the event of a hard to decide case: G-d. If all else failed, the Israelites were to take their case to the Holy Temple, and the priest or magistrate there would give G-d’s word as binding judgment.

So what about now, when the direct voice of G-d is no longer heard in our world? How can we pursue Justice?

In what is perhaps one of the most prominent cases in quite a while, America right now is grappling with the difficulty of the search for true justice in the case of Ferguson and the shooting of Michael Brown. If there is one thing we know about this case, it is that we don’t know enough. If this were biblical times, we could bring the case to the temple mount and a Kohein would pronounce G-d’s judgement, for G-d knows the truth. Now, we as a nation are struggling to heed the words of Shoftim. We pervert justice every time we riot instead of searching for the truth; we show favoritism every time we preventatively defend a cop as acting in the line of duty; Bribery blinds our wise eyes as external interests turn a difficult situation into a platform for politics.

How can we pursue justice when the truth is so hard to make clear, and without G-d to confirm for us what is just?

I honestly don’t have any answers for you tonight; I think I am here purely to remind you of our duty to bring justice to our land.

“Justice, Justice YOU shall pursue.”

The imperative is on us. With or without divine intervention, the pursuit of justice is our responsibility. We are the ones who bust seek it out, and we are the ones who now must find a way to the truth.

I leave you with a well-known quote from Rabbi Tarfon:

“It is not your responsibility to finish the work of the word, but you are not free to desist from it either”

It is not for us to finish the work of Justice, but we are certainly obligated to begin to illuminate for ourselves a path to the truth.


Zach Goldberg ( is the President of the Hillel Jewish Student Union and a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.




FreshFest 2014 – A Fresh Perspective


Monday morning was an exciting day for over 100 new Syracuse students, including myself. We had all been looking forward to move in day all summer and for many much longer. We checked in at Hillel, where we were greeted by many friendly faces. Move in was fairly easy as we had the privilege to move in early, and the majority of people, including myself, spent the day simply doing some last minute shopping and having some final family time.

By Tuesday morning everyone was moved in, and the FreshFest festivities officially begun. We started the morning off with a breakfast, which was a great way to say goodbye to our parents but also meet new people. Hillel director Brian Small also spoke and issued a challenge to “find a mentor, befriend people, and try something new.”  This biblical quote sounded applicable at first, but only at the end of the program did everyone realize how true it rang.

After breakfast, we said our final goodbyes to our parents, and then were split into groups for ice breakers. Though at times silly, ice breakers were a great way to meet other students and facilitators and were only silly in the best way.

After ice breakers we had some informative q and a’s about Hillel and the services they offer, and then we broke up for a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt was a great way to familiarize us with campus, and despite various facilitators insisting the hunt was not a competition, my team won.

Everyone was fairly wiped after the scavenger hunt, so we went back to Hillel and basically chilled which was, again, great just to meet people. We also had a great organized group discussion about the current Middle eastern situation, with the general goal of just making sure everyone is informed on the conflict. We continued to hang out and Once the group was recharged after some dinner, we loaded the buses to embark on some Cosmic bowling. The athletic ability of the FreshFest participants was, not surprisingly, somewhat underwhelming but everyone had a great time just hanging out and having some fun. Friends were made simply from the random seats we took on the bus to wherever lane we were bowling. We spent a solid 2 fun hours bowling and then everyone came back and got some much needed sleep.

On Wednesday everyone came back to Hillel ready to have some more fun. In the morning we broke up into 2 groups: one who did an activity fair and one who made challah, and then we switched. The activity fair was a great way to get a head start on all the opportunities for involvement on campus (such as the Hillel blog, for instance), and the challah making was just old fashion Judaic fun. After these activities, we had an open forum on Greek life on campus. I came to school with my mind made up to not rush, as I am from Atlanta and have only really been exposed to the overwhelming SEC Greek life. After the panel though, I am reconsidering potentially rushing as Greek life on Syracuse seems like a great way to make friends, but not really overwhelming in any way.

After the Greek panel, we had the classic Jewish deli lunch and then loaded the buses to spend the day at the Goliath that is the Destiny USA mall. At the mall we had a home base of Dave and busters where we had unlimited games, and we had the option to also play lazer tag, go on the ropes course, or go to a place called 5Wits which provided interactive adventures, so to speak. I decided to go with 5Wits where my group proceeded to save the world from nuclear destruction, which was a fun and mildly stressful endeavor. We also explored the gargantuan mall, which has hundreds of stores. After around 3 hours of Destiny USA fun, we headed back to Hillel while the group was collectively exhausted.

Once back at Hillel, we wrapped up FreshFest full circle by bringing up the biblical quote “Find a mentor, befriend people, and try something new,”  and I think it hit every participant that the group really checked all three boxes, finding friendship with each other and mentor ship with the facilitators, all without judging. We then walked into the sunset leaving FreshFest behind but looking forward to another 4 years of Hillel involvement. I personally had so much fun during FreshFest, and was honestly shocked I could make such genuine connections with both my peers and facilitators alike in such a short time. It was a great experience, and only left me more enthused to be a Jewish student of Syracuse University.


Erik M. Benjamin is a Freshman from Atlanta, GA who participated in the 2014 FreshFest Pre-orientation program.

Meet the Facilitators – Part Three

They say that the third time is the charm, so it’s time to meet the last round of facilitators this lovely #FreshfestFriday! #10days!!!!


Hi! My Name is Jackie Feitel, I am a sophomore here at SU and I’m from Long Island, New York. I am currently a psychology major in the College of arts and sciences. I am a member of the Continue reading