W e have had over five years of experience with MEOR on two college campuses, one of them being the University of Pennsylvania. Our daughter first became involved with MEOR at Emory University and then increased her involvement throughout her three years as a law student at Penn. Having raised our children in a reform home, we had some serious concerns about our daughter’s involvement with MEOR , like any normal parents would. Since then, we have gotten to know some of the people behind the organization and see how MEOR has single-handedly transformed her life — and subsequently ours — in the most positive of ways. Bottom line: MEOR is a healthy, balanced and positive organization that has deeply enriched our lives and the lives of our children.
Although our daughter was always career-driven, she was a sensitive enough person to relate to the deeply meaningful introductory material taught in the Maimonides program. As far as she was concerned, MEOR was providing her with a stress-free, open-dialogue and intellectually-stimulating approach to Judaism through classes and experiences so that she could make an educated decision about her own Judaism. Our daughter was inspired to continue her Jewish learning and eventually decided to incorporate the meaningful ideas that she learned into her own life. Even while increasing her observance, she remained a diligent student, got into an Ivy League law school and is now working as a law clerk in the Supreme Court of Israel. Throughout her journey, her MEOR mentors always encouraged her law career and in fact, MEOR was instrumental in helping her to obtain this clerkship.
Indeed, if it weren’t for our daughter’s involvement in MEOR, she never would have developed such a strong connection to Israel and the Jewish people, which led her to seek a job at the Supreme Court in Israel. This passion has inspired our family as well. Our son has increased his engagement in Jewish life at the University of Michigan and went on his first trip to Israel this past summer. And through being around our daughter and her mentors, we have deepened our connection to Israel and Judaism as well. This is no small feat in America today, where assimilation, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment are escalating.
On another note, our personal relationship with our daughter has also benefitted through her relationship with MEOR. The time-tested values of honoring one’s parents were clearly part of the content that she learned, appreciated and so beautifully expresses today.
There has been much discussion about stipends being paid by MEOR — as well as Chabad, Hillel, Birthright and other Jewish organizations — and some have expressed concern about this practice. But no person would decide to increase his Jewish observance or change his life in any substantial way for just a couple hundred dollars. To think otherwise is laughable. The stipend is simply a necessary tool to reach today’s generation. Think about it: College students have so many distractions pulling at their time, whether online or on campus. And at campuses like Penn where students are very career-driven, it is a very difficult task to get any student who doesn’t have a strong Jewish background to commit a couple of hours each week to learning about Jewish values and ideas — even if those ideas get to the core of the meaning of life and their place in it. So sure, the funding is a way to get students in the door, but it certainly isn’t enough to keep students involved with MEOR in a substantial way.
We have watched our daughter blossom into an even more sensitive, refined and most importantly, happy and healthy person who is committed to being the best person she can be. Her MEOR mentors embody these same characteristics as well; they are healthy and balanced people who we enjoy spending time with.
MEOR has provided my daughter, like hundreds of other students, with an opportunity to engage in Judaism in an intellectual, meaningful and inspiring way. We are grateful to the organization for its hard work. Far from the inaccurate or unfortunate characterization as “radical,” MEOR is truly a light i n the darkness of today’s world.
Jamie and Paul Shweitzer are the parents of Jenna Shweitzer, a 2014 University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate. Jenna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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