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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, May 27, 2024

Tufts Chabad to offer new courses focused on Jewish learning

Tufts' Chabad House on 21 Chetwynd Road is pictured on Oct. 5.

Tufts Chabad, a center for Jewish life on campus, is introducing new courses that cover a wide variety of topics, including Talmudic Perspectives on Today’s Perspectives and Outsmarting Antisemitism. Chabad will be offering these courses in partnership with JewishU, a national organization dedicated to Jewish learning on college campuses.

Rabbi Tzvi Backman, director of Chabad, explained that members of the Tufts community have expressed a desire to learn more about their heritage. 

“It is our hope that the courses offered through JewishU will help serve this need,” Rabbi Backman wrote in an email to the Daily. 

In selecting these courses, Chanie Backman, program director of Chabad, looked to include a multitude of different topics and learning styles. Along with Tzvi Backman, she looked at past conversations and interests when gauging which courses to choose. Nonetheless, if students are interested in learning about a topic not currently offered, Chabad is willing to accommodate students’ interest in those subjects.

Tzvi Backman emphasized that the goal of Chabad is to be responsive to community and student feedback. 

“We will likely make adjustments as we assess over time what subjects [are] actually of greater interest to the community,” he wrote.

The directors have high hopes for the impact that these courses can bring to the Tufts community.

“We’re hoping, individually, that students can grow in their own spiritual journeys, and also that it feeds into the building of a Jewish community in a stronger way,” Chanie Backman said.

She also hopes that these courses will allow students to gain a deeper understanding of their relationship with religion by creating valuable and safe learning experiences for anyone who wishes to learn more about Judaism.

“The path to really kind of owning that journey, owning that process, really owning your Judaism is having experiences … being able to just explore in a comfortable, safe environment,” Chanie Backman said.

Mia Rabinovich, a co-president of Chabad, agrees that these new offerings will help promote an inclusive learning environment for Jewish studies on campus.

“Coming into Tufts, if I knew that these courses were offered, I would be so happy because I was very worried about Jewish life here and possible antisemitism,” Rabinovich, a sophomore, said.

Rabinovich also noted that the introduction of these courses makes her feel that Tufts values Judaism and her religious experiences, which she sees as critical to fighting antisemitism. 

“When Jewish students become more knowledgeable in their Judaism they in turn become a source of knowledge and inspiration to their peers within the Tufts community and in the communities they will be a part of in the future,” Tzvi Backman wrote. “[The courses] will bring additional strength and vibrance to the Jewish community at Tufts and to the Jewish communities they will be a part of throughout their lives.”

Chanie Backman noted that there is no prerequisite necessary to engage with these courses. All eight courses are marketed as “bite-sized learning for busy students,” each one broken down into four short classes.

When speaking about further opportunities offered by Chabad to enrich the Jewish community, Chanie Backman expressed her drive to continue enhancing Jewish life on campus.

“The sky’s the limit,” Chanie Backman said.