Can a Jewish Center Be Too Jewish?

Some Haverford students are suspicious of a campus center for Jewish life

By Molly Hawkins

Th Rohr Center for Jewish Life, located in a house just across the street from Haverford College, has had a strong relationship with the school for years. It also has a controversial reputation on campus.

The Center is also known on campus as Chabad, and affiliated with the organization Chabad, described as, “one of the world’s best-known Hasidic movements, particularly for its outreach activities,” according to Wikipedia.

Haverford’s Chabad house is run by the Rabbi, Eli Gurevitz, and his wife, Blumia. Together, they host a variety of events that support the Tri-Co’s Jewish community, including Shabbat dinners every Friday evening to welcome in the Sabbath, as well as services and gatherings during Jewish holidays.

A Hanukkah Party at Chabad House

Despite being affiliated with a national orthodox organization, The Rohr Center’s doors remain open to all regardless of religion, race, nationality, or gender. Shabbat dinners are made up of observant Jewish people, people who identify as culturally Jewish but not very observant, as well as others from different religious backgrounds who go to Chabad for reasons — such as spending time with friends and eating a delicious, home-cooked meal.

All that is needed to attend Shabbat dinner, or any other event held at the Rohr Center, is respect for Judaism and Jewish culture, and the ability to keep an open mind.

Even having both a Jewish friend and a need for something to do on a Friday night could be all it takes to get through the doorway of the Rohr Center. During Shabbat dinners, Rabbi Gurevitz always reserves a few minutes to go around the room and allow each person to give a short message.

Every week, many people express gratitude for Chabad as a comfortable Jewish space. But many express gratitude for Chabad as an inclusive, welcoming place that allows them to spend time with friends and eat good food.

Despite this praise, the general attitude towards Chabad on campus is often negative. Students who choose to attend Shabbat dinners and other events are automatically thought by some to hold Orthodox values.

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A Matter of Faith

David King’s fascination with Christian theology began when he was 14

By Molly Hawkins

While most kids his age were playing outside, going to the movies, or playing video games, you could find 14-year-old David King reading theology.

Not that King didn’t engage in typical kid activities, as well. But when his pastor gifted him two books on theology when he was in the ninth grade, he found himself absorbed in a new world that felt somehow familiar to him.

“It was like finding a language that was familiar, something that made sense and excited me,” King said.

Eight years later, 22 years old and a senior double major in Religion and Philosophy at Haverford, King is looking ahead to attending Divinity School after graduation, and is considering possible careers in the ministry and academia.

King was born in Washington D.C., but grew up in Alexandria in northern Virginia. He returned to D.C. to attend Georgetown Day School for high school. He was raised in the Methodist Church, and attended services on Sundays with his family. King considers his early and consistent presence in church as a key factor in shaping his Christianity, in a way that was very authentic.

“…It’s not just something you do because that’s what you do on Sundays,” King said, his hands moving emphatically before him as he spoke, his dark hair swept over his forehead, his eyes bright and kind. “In the same way that going to church and worshiping should change who adults are, it does the same thing for children. When you go to church and you worship and you take the sacraments, those are things Christians believe actually affects a change on people. I came to understand who I was through the things that I was doing in church.”

In this way, King had no one moment of realization of his faith. Although he wants to pay moments of conversion their proper respect, and recognizes that many people have had truly authentic experiences of coming into faith within a moment that is simply not his story. Rather, his faith community was given to him at birth due to his family’s background. His faith is something he was able to grow into and come to understand more clearly as he continued to go to church and engage with Christian practices and worship throughout his childhood and into his adolescence.

“I wouldn’t be a Christian if I hadn’t been baptized as a child. There’s a really distinct sense in which, I’m a Christian because at least in part, my family raised me to be one,” King said.

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