Caring for our Students on Campus

A Message from Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

Many of us are watching with dismay as events unfold on college campuses around the country targeting Jewish students and other supporters of Israel, often associated with efforts fueled by opportunistic outside organizations with their own political agendas to push academic institutions to divest from companies tied to Israel. No one should endure the intimidation we have witnessed in the news, and some of our own children have experienced, but especially not students living away from home who expect the colleges they attend to be safe places for learning and discovery.

As challenging as conditions are right now on many campuses, I nonetheless remain hopeful that this moment will become a watershed opening many school leaders’ eyes to the pernicious manner in which antisemitism enters the social and academic dynamic of their communities, and that as a result, circumstances will begin to improve.

It will take time, however. And it will take our courageous commitment to calling out antisemitism wherever we see it. So to assist us, the Anti-Defamation League has provided a number of resources:

Additionally, because much of the campus antisemitism at this moment centers around Israel and accusations against Israel, I recommend that our students learn what they can about modern Middle East History. Those who understand its complexity are less likely to engage in the provocations we are watching on the news, and, if confronted, will be better able to articulate a hopeful vision for both Israelis and Palestinians.

We address these topics in our temple’s high school program. And there are many resources available, but here are two, easily accessible: a timeline of the Arab-Israeli conflict produced by the American Jewish Committee ( is always a good resource for information); and a very readable book, also about the history of the conflict, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, by Israeli actress and activist Noa Tishby, who will speak at Emanu-El on May 2. I encourage you to attend.

On most every campus, there will be human resources to whom students can turn, and emotionally safe spaces where they can go. At many colleges, those will include Jewish organizations. At others where the Jewish presence is smaller, those may include compassionate advisors and professors. Sometimes they need to be sought out, but they are surely there.

And I and my colleagues are here, for both you and your kids. If you feel we can be helpful in addressing a challenge at school directly, or if you just want to talk, please never hesitate to reach out to us.

Giving back through Pro Bono with Family Legal Care

We extend our deepest gratitude to our dedicated volunteer attorneys, Lou Briskman, Jessie Beller, and Kyle Satterfeld, for their invaluable contributions in increasing access to justice for families navigating the complexities of the New York Family Court system.

Through their pro bono service for Family Legal Care, these attorneys offered legal guidance to clients facing challenging issues related to custody, visitation, and child support. Their expertise and commitment have made a real difference in the lives of those they’ve assisted.

By providing one-hour, limited-scope consultations, these generous volunteers have played a critical role in helping parents and caregivers when they need it most. There is a real justice gap for the 80% of family court litigants who navigate the system without representation, and that is why Family Legal Care and pro bono volunteers like Lou, Jessie and Kyle are so essential.

Their dedication to serving the community and advocating for those in need exemplifies the spirit of compassion and justice that strengthens our society. We are profoundly grateful for their unwavering support and commitment to making a positive impact in the lives of families in need.

Insights from a Panel Discussion “Being Jewish on Campus Post-October 7th”

Led by Temple teen Ezra Sapadin, the Department of Lifelong Learning hosted a panel discussion with current college students, “Being Jewish on Campus Post-October 7th.” College is a transformative time, filled with opportunities for self-discovery, growth, and forging meaningful connections. The conversation offered invaluable insights and guidance for Emanu-El teens who will soon embark upon their own college journeys.  

“The Jewish College Panel allowed teens with completely different mindsets and experiences to begin to comprehend the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict in places of higher education and formulate mindsets as to how to go about it themselves” — Ezra Sapadin

A number of themes emerged from the discussion, and our teens left feeling empowered and inspired. Key takeaways from the conversation included:

Embracing the Fluidity of Jewish Identity: Your connection to Judaism evolves. Whether deeply involved or exploring, embrace this fluidity. Affirm your Jewish identity, even if not actively practicing.

Building Supportive Communities: Finding a supportive community is crucial, be it through campus groups, trusted friends, or family. Engage in open dialogue and address unsupportive attitudes to foster understanding.

Striking a Balance: Balancing academics, social life and advocacy can be difficult. Prioritize your Jewish life wisely, set boundaries and have one-on-one conversations for effective communication.

Navigating Controversial Conversations: Navigating discussions on Israel and other contentious topics needs openness and nuance. Be honest and critical about your views. Surround yourself with curious minds open to dialogue, and step away from unproductive environments when needed.

Maintaining Individuality: College is for exploration and self-discovery. Be proud of your identity, but don’t let it limit you. Embrace discomfort, venture into non-Jewish spaces and utilize social media as a platform for personal expression beyond activism.

Addressing Challenges: If faced with challenges such as unfair treatment from professors or conflicts in the classroom, don’t hesitate to seek support from the administration or fellow students. Ultimately, remember that your college experience is shaped by your choices and responsibilities.

With special thanks to Ezra Sapadin for facilitating the panel discussion, and Temple Emanu-El’s Department of Lifelong Learning staff, including Em Besthoff, for making the event possible. For more resources for teens, college students and families, visit our Stand with Israel page.

Thank You to Our Volunteers at Mitzvah Day

Tikkun Olam Volunteers and Project Leaders gathered in Wise Hall this past Sunday, March 17, 2024, to assemble over 2,000 packages containing more than 16,000 items, including provisions for food insecurity, to aid communities in need during Tikkun Olam’s Spring Mitzvah Day. We are grateful to the over 60 community members who arrived ready to …

Emanu-El Studios Presents: Purim

This year, our family Purim celebration Emanu-El Studios Presents: Purim took us on an unforgettable journey through some of Hollywood’s most magical family movies. With more than 140 families joining the festivity, Wise Hall was abuzz with laughter, joy and an array of colorful costumes that brought our cinematic universe to life. The adventure began …

Torah Commentary on Ki Tisa by Bettijane Eisenpreis

Bettijane Eisenpreis Parashah for March 2, 2024 Torah Commentary by Bettijane Eisenpreis “The Lord spoke unto Moses, ”Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the Land of Egypt, have acted  basely….They have made themselves a molten calf and bowed low unto it and sacrificed to it, saying, ‘This is your god, O …

Returning from Berlin: Temple Emanu-El’s Teen Trip to Berlin, Germany

Our recent Teen Trip to Berlin was an incredible journey filled with inspiration and hope. Two of our teens and I returned home deeply moved by the experience. Throughout our time in Berlin, we delved into the city’s history and Jewish culture, which left a lasting impact on all of us.

From the moment we arrived until we departed, our teens immersed themselves in the rich tapestry of Berlin’s past. We shared in the Shabbat Service at the Neue Synagogue, explored the former Jewish quarter, reflected on the history of the Wannsee Conference, and contemplated the significance of the Holocaust memorial. These experiences opened conversations about identity and the history of reform Judaism, fostering a sense of safety for our teens to ask questions and explore their heritage.

Traveling with 28 other teens provided a supportive environment where we could work through any discomfort together, making the trip even more meaningful. It was inspiring to see our teens engage with the history and culture of Berlin, whether it was sleeping on the bus between sites or ordering dinner in German. Their willingness to share their Jewish perspectives at the Abraham Geiger Rabbinical School demonstrated their curiosity and resilience.

In today’s challenging climate, witnessing our teens transform academic challenges into opportunities for growth was truly refreshing. As we returned to New York, we couldn’t help but feel grateful to our teens and their families for entrusting us with this invaluable experience. Blending the old and modern aspects of Berlin was priceless, and the growth we witnessed speaks for itself.

We are excited to continue this journey with our teens later this year, as we have a number of upcoming immersive travel experiences planned. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to nurture their growth and understanding. If you or your teen would like to learn more about our upcoming trips to Israel, Arizona or Washington, DC, please reach out to me at . We can’t wait to see where this journey takes us next!

For more information about all teen and family trips with Temple Emanu-El, please visit our immersive trips webpage:

Discover the Joys of Grandparenting with Temple Emanu-El

Rita Haves and family

Finding the right balance as a new grandparent can be tricky; you want to be supportive and helpful, but not intrusive and overbearing. It marks not only the beginning of the relationship with your grandchild, but also a new relationship with your adult child and their partner. 

Temple Emanu-El’s Grandparents Group was developed by Rabbi Amy Ehrlich and Jacqueline Fisher to support new grandparents navigating this delicate transition and to help them strengthen their family bonds. When temple member Rita Haves joined the group, she was looking forward to lessons and practical advice, and she was pleased to find a supportive and vibrant community as well.

“It is a welcoming environment, in which Rabbi Ehrlich and Jacqueline Fisher create a community of trust and a safe space to share. It’s been a fantastic experience learning from the other grandparents and connecting with them as well. I encourage all grandparents to join.” – Rita Haves

Guided by Rabbi Ehrlich and Jacqueline Fisher, the Grandparents Group engages in meaningful conversations and activities focused on transmitting wisdom and love from one generation to the next—l’dor v’dor. This exploration is intended to strengthen the fabric of family bonds, celebrate the unique role grandparents play in their families’ lives and bolster the connections between grandparents, their adult children and grandchildren. It’s more than a group; it’s a sanctuary for those looking to enhance their role as grandparents.



Thank You to Our Volunteers at the Supply Drive for Israel

Thank you to all of our volunteers who contributed their time and energy to a worthwhile mitzvah for the Supply Drive for Israel. We received hundreds of packages and had 100+ volunteers from the Temple Emanu-El community join us to pack an impressive 842 items to be sent to Israel’s front lines. For our third …

Rabbi Davidson’s Reflections on the Recent Congregational Mission to Israel

Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson, Peter and Mary Kalikow Senior Rabbinic Chair at Temple Emanu-El, offers his reflections on the January 2024 Temple Emanu-El Mission to Israel in response to the October 7 attacks.

Aspiring to Authenticity: A Lesson for the Soul

There is a famous story of Rav Zusha of Hanipol, an 18th century Chasidic luminary and tzaddik.  When he was on his deathbed, his students found him crying uncontrollably. They tried to comfort him by saying that he was almost as wise as Moses and as kind as Abraham and for that he would be …

Update: Yarden Roman-Gat is Free

November 30, 2023 We are overjoyed to share the heartwarming news that Yarden Roman-Gat, who was taken hostage in Gaza, has been safely released and reunited with her loved ones. Her brother, Gili Roman, spoke at our services on November 3rd, touching our hearts with the story of his sister’s bravery and her abduction by …