KU Chabad Sinai Scholars Society reaches 500 students, receives award

Posted Thursday, Mar 7th, 2024

The Sinai Scholars Society, a Jewish enrichment program hosted by KU Chabad for students at the University of Kansas, was recently awarded the society’s Milestone Award.

According to a news release by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, the award, presented by the International Sinai Scholars Society, celebrates the KU chapter having served 500 Sinai Scholars graduates. The Sinai Scholars Society was launched in 2006 as a joint project of Chabad on Campus and the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. It has a presence at Chabad houses on 185 campuses around the world, more than 36,000 alumni and nearly 3,000 members participating this year.

KU Chabad directors Rabbi Zalman and Nechama Tiechtel brought the program to the University of Kansas in 2006. Since then, the program has continued to offer an eight-week experience that includes textual study and discussions on topics related to Jewish identity, visits to local Jewish communities, community volunteering and an immersive Shabbat experience. 

Every semester, a limited number of KU's top Jewish students join this society dedicated to intellectual discovery and lively discussion. The society intends that when students are done, they can meaningfully discuss Judaism's approach to such issues as faith, family, property, medical and business ethics, relationships and more. According to the Tiechtels, many participants have continued to increase their involvement in Jewish leadership, study and engagement during their college years and beyond.

The curriculum at the Sinai Scholars Society encompasses a broad range of Jewish and universal topics in an academic framework. The purpose of these courses is to analyze the basic principles and foundations of Jewish ethics, philosophy, practice and belief.  

“Sinai Scholars provides a meaningful opportunity for students to connect with fellow like-minded students on campus and enrich their overall campus experience,” Nechama Tiechtel said. 

Aidan Charlip, a Sinai Scholars student, said that before his involvement, he “used to feel different. I’d sometimes feel alienated from other students because I’m Jewish. Now, I’m proud of it and not afraid to share it.”

Rabbi Tiechtel said that the 500-student milestone and award is a “powerful validation.” 

“We aim to give students a chance to be proud of their identity as proud Jews on a college campus. The students love it and encourage their friends to join,” he said.

Another Sinai Scholars student, Josie Safir, said that the program affected her view of Judaism. 

“I am definitely walking away from these Sinai Scholars lessons with a deeper appreciation for Judaism and a want to live a more Jewish lifestyle,” Safir said. “This is so helpful for me, especially as I soon transition to life on my own in a big city and think about how I want to raise my future family.”

For student Paige Atlas, Sinai Scholars provides Jewish education and background a student might have missed early in life.

“Throughout my years in public school, I was often educating my teachers and administrators about Jewish customs,” Atlas said. “Sinai Scholars finally allowed me to study Jewish teachings as they had never been offered to me before and enhance my college experience.”

Robbie Metz, another Sinai Scholars student, shared how his involvement has created friendships that “feel more like family,” especially as students on the KU campus face rising antisemitism following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and war.

“I now have a place where I can feel safe and supported. No matter what happens in my life, Judaism has my back, and so does my community,” Metz said.

The Sinai Scholars program at KU is one of multiple Jewish identity programs that KU Chabad offers on the KU campus to enhance Jewish life and create a stronger Jewish future. 

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