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April 11, 2003 - Image 59

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-11

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Torah Portion

Rabb i A vraham
ja co bo vitz
explains the
deeper meaning
ofJudaism to
stutlents in Ann

Ann Arbor students in Jewish leadership program thirst for religious knowledge.

Special to the Jewish News

Ann Arbor
t is well past midnight on a


Thursday night, yet, lively con-
versations about Judaism rage on
at the Jewish Resource Center in
Ann Arbor — an hour-and-a-half after
the "official" end of the weekly
Maimonides Jewish Leadership Training
Program class.
Students often stay late into the night
following the 2'12-hour program to ask
questions and continue discussions with
rabbis and peers, sometimes pausing
briefly to grab one of the last miniature
hot dogs or a handful of jellybeans from
the table of refreshments raided earlier
by some 40 students in attendance.
Each semester, the Maimonides I
program offers students the chance to
take an in-depth look at Judaism by par-
ticipating in 10 classes led by rabbis and
Jewish leaders as well as five trips geared
toward getting to know the Jewish corn-

Twenty of the students also receive a
$50 weekly stipend, sponsored by pri-
vate donors, for their commitment and
ongoing attendance.
"We realized that students need to
have some income — many of them
usually take some side jobs and we
wanted them to be able to completely
focus and not be under pressure while
taking Jewish studies and taking them
seriously," said Rabbi Avraham
Jacobovitz, director of Machon L'Torah,
the Jewish Learning Network of
Michigan, which oversees the Jewish
Resource Center and its programming.
We wanted to create a situation
where it'd be easy for them to accept this
commitment. We thought it'd be a nice
token of incentive to them to feel obli-
gated to really follow through and, like
anything else, if a person is committed
to a project, then the results are a lot
higher quality," he said.
And the results from last semester,
the program's pilot season, showed it to

be a great success.
"I think the biggest indicator of the
success of the first semester of
Maimonides is that the vast majority of
the people who participated in -
Maimonides I have asked us to continue
providing them with some further and
deeper Jewish education, which we did.
Most of them are now coming to
Maimonides II, which is a more
advanced learning format, without the
stipend," Rabbi Jacobovitz said.
About 15 students participate in
Maimonides II. The 12-century scholar
Maimonides wrote the Mishnih Torah
(review of the Torah), which covers the
breadth of philosophical and legal topics
that are the foundation of traditional

Joy Of Learning

Brett Pepper, 21, a senior from Denver,
took part in the Maimonides I pilot
program last semester and now attends
Maimonides II. While he says the
money could be helpful in getting peo-

ple in the door, he says for him it's just
not necessary.
"Like I deserve to be paid for this?
Like I should be paid to learn from peo-
ple, to hang out with cool people?" he
He said he enjoyed the chance to
learn the basics, starting from the begin-
ning, and feels more comfortable in
many situations related to Judaism that
he might have found more intimidating
before taking part in the program.
"I've learned so much and feel it's
important to continue my studies in
Judaism," he said. "I think Maimonides
and my experience in college is only the
beginning. I just think it gave me the
foundation and the confidence to go to
places I wouldn't otherwise."
Familiarizing students with various
aspects of Judaism they may not have
been exposed to or understood growing
up and giving students the tools to pass
along the beauty and meaning of
Judaism are central elements of the lead-
DEEP LEARNING on page 64



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