Student perspectives

From Sinai Scholars Alumni

Sinai Scholars is a Jewish learning class, based on the pillars of discovering one’s individual Jewish heritage, connecting with other Jewish students across campus, and becoming an empowered Jewish leader. It is composed of 10 classes, each one based around one of the Ten Commandments. Sinai Scholars takes these 10 classic points and forces students to think about them and apply them to their own lives today. 

After 18 years of Jewish education in Houston, I loved everything about coming to college at UT Austin, except I was missing one vital component I had taken for granted during my years at Beth Yeshurun Day School, I. Weiner Middle School, and Emery High School. Sinai Scholars brought Jewish education back into my life, and furthermore took me back to the basics. My favorite part was the group; everyone chose to be there and came from different backgrounds — years of formal Jewish education like me, a complete lack thereof, and everything in between.  We fed off of each other’s ideas to push ourselves, and developed opinions on various aspects of our religion, faith, and modern society.  After completion of the course, Erin Scheinthal, a Fall 2012 Sinai Scholars alum, exclaimed, “The friends I made, the information I learned, and the deeper connection I made with my religion all mean so much to me, and I'm so happy I took the course!”

Not only did Sinai Scholars inspire changes in our daily lives, but some students found other opportunities to continue the development that started there. Eric Samuels attended a seminar in New York City to present a paper he wrote upon completion of the course about money and morality. About his experience he said, “Being a relatively nonobservant Jew, I was very nervous about how the weekend would unfold… Sunday was the day our presentations were held, so I took the subway into Manhattan [from Crown Heights] and was welcomed warmly by a host of people when I entered the Chabad near NYU… With all of the catch phrases that we commonly hear to promote events, I was surprised and encouraged by the accuracy of those phrases in the context of the Sinai Scholars event.” Alana Reifer, alum of the first Sinai Scholars class at UT, chose to attend a program called IsraelLinks after her experience with Sinai Scholars. She explained, “IsraelLinks, to me, was similar to Sinai Scholars, except Israel was my classroom. It was the most incredible experience I ever had and I thank Rabbi Zev, Ariela, and my time in Sinai Scholars for re-sparking my interest in Jewish learning. I, like many of my friends, made the mistake of stopping my Jewish education after I completed Sunday school classes in high school. Sinai Scholars reminds us that no matter how much or how little you think you know about Judaism, there is always more to learn. I highly recommended Sinai Scholars to anyone who is looking to enrich their experience at UT.”  

Sinai Scholars brings Judaism back into students’ lives, in a time and place where it is so simple to lose sight of oneself and blend into the UT majority. Rabbi Zev and the Johnson family put so much time, effort, and heart into connecting with the Jewish community on campus. The unique learning environment, group of students, and instruction is unmatched.  Sinai Scholars in particular is one resource students should certainly take advantage of when given the opportunity, and I believe every Sinai Scholars alum agrees.

Sarah Robinson is pictured on the right.


A Relationship Between ZBT and Chabad

First and foremost, thank you Zev and Ariela for hosting us tonight. We all really appreciate your generosity and for putting this wonderful event together.

Chabad has really meant something for me since I got here more than two years ago. An 18-year-old from New York, looking to go to services for the High Holidays, Chabad was the only choice for us ZBT’s. Zev and Ariela, you have made this a home for me, somewhere I know I always have the option to come to. You have extended your arms to this fraternity and to me, and I cannot be more grateful for that. You go out of your way to make sure that we are all doing okay, and are there for us when we are in need. Even when I couldn’t come for services this year for Yom Kippur, Zev told me the night before, “come by whenever, I’ll blow the shofar for you.” That alone shows you his character and his love for Judaism.

Thank you again Zev and Ariela. You both have had a great impact on my life.

Daniel is pictured on the right.


Chabad: An Open House

Good evening everyone and Shabbat Shalom.

I just want to start off by thanking Rabbi Zev and Ariela for kindly accommodating yet another ZBT Shabbat. I remember the first ZBT Shabbat that I attended freshman year. I was amazed with the amount of people, especially upperclassmen, who attended. That night truly made an impact on me and showed me the significance of Chabad.

No matter who you are, no matter what you are wearing, or what language you speak, Zev and Ariela welcome everyone with open arms, pass no judgement and make themselves readily available to everyone who walks through their doors.

Having said that, I urge each and every one of you to stay connected with Chabad in whichever way you choose and hope that you have appreciated what the Johnson family has created here on UT's campus.

Thanks so much again. L'chaim.

Ryan Pearlman is pictured second from the right.


Lessons From Noah

This week’s parsha is parashat Noah. In this parsha, Gd realized that the earth and all of its beings have become corrupt and decided that he must flood the earth and essentially "start over" with the help of Noah. He said to Noah, “‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth has become full of robbery because of them, and behold I am destroying them from the earth.’”

According to the parsha, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” – we are innately evil, we are born this way. But that doesn’t mean we are bad forever – our actions can define us as good people. For example, if we see a crime being committed and we stand by and don’t do anything, we are bad even though we are not actually committing the crime. To be considered good, we have to do something to help, not just refrain from partaking in the bad.

After the flood, Gd promised Noah, “‘I will establish My covenant with you, and never again will all flesh be cut off by the flood waters, and there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.’” This promise has not only lasted until now, but is “for everlasting generations.” But how can Gd promise that there won’t be another flood? We still have plenty of evil in the world, even after the flood, and how do we know that what happened to society in Noah’s generation will not happen again? The difference this time is that our world is not hopeless. Despite all the evil in the world, there is also a lot of good. People do mitzvot every day, people help each other, give to charity, etc. This means that we can do something to repair the bad in our world without the need for a flood.

We see that Noah is the main focus of the parsha. He is 600 years old when he’s commanded to build the ark. If Noah can build an ark in only one week at that age, then we have no excuse for not working out today or for putting off that tough assignment until the day before it’s due. We should always strive to do the best we can and set high expectations for ourselves.

Noah also teaches us the importance of patience and persistence. Gd made the rain last 40 days and 40 nights, and the flood lasted 150 days in total. When Noah sent out a dove to determine if the waters had receded, the dove returned to the ark, having nowhere to rest as all of earth was still covered in water. Patiently, Noah waited another week and again sent out the dove. The dove returned with an olive branch, showing Noah that the waters were receding. Noah waited an additional week before sending the dove back out, and the dove no longer returned. The waters had finally receded.

Patience and persistence are important in our lives, as well. Whether it be for the promotion you have been working so hard for or simply for something that will shake up your life and bring you some excitement, you never know what is around the corner  – patience and persistence are key. Finally, the parsha ends by showing that behind every cloud there is a rainbow. For Noah, the rainbow was his reward for his extraordinary patience and persistence. More often than not, you must work hard and push your way through the bad in order to reap the benefits of your work and fully appreciate the good.

Lexi is pictured on the right.


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