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Orthodox Rhodes Scholar Excelled In Classroom But Found Spiritual Enrichment In Orthodox Union Program


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Recognizing that after attending only all-girls Jewish schools Princeton would be something of a shock, while still in high school Miriam went for a Shabbat on campus when the JLIC couple was Rabbi Joshua Ross, now associate director of JLIC, and his wife, Rivky.

“I found it was a very nice community, very warm, it seemed like everyone cared for each other and knew everyone’s name,” Miriam recalls. Adds Rabbi Ross, “We were delighted to welcome Miriam, as well as other potential students, to observe Shabbat with us at JLIC, and it is no surprise that Miriam decided to apply to Princeton.”

If Princeton did not have an Orthodox rabbi, Miriam says, she would not have applied there. Meanwhile, once at Princeton, Miriam became part of a rapidly growing Jewish community making “wonderful friends.”

Miriam related quickly to the Wolkenfelds. “They both went to secular colleges and grew in their Judaism in their college years,” Miriam says. Over the four years she has done one-on-one chavruta learning with Sara; attended shiurim, including a recently concluded four-part series by David on the great Torah commentators; and was delighted when the Wolkenfelds played host to her parents for the first days of Sukkot.

Princeton students expect superior teaching skills, and that is what the Wolkenfelds have provided to Miriam and to her friends at JLIC. “They teach Torah at a very high level and present a sophisticated manner in their teaching,” said Miriam. “They have helped me learn Torah at the highest level that I can.”

Miriam will be studying bioethics at Oxford. In the fall 2009 semester, Miriam took part in the Jonas Salk Fellowship in Jewish BioMedical Ethics co-sponsored by JLIC and the Center for Jewish Life-Hillel at Princeton. Says Miriam, “Studying Jewish bioethics and medical halacha through the Jonas Salk Fellowship was a pivotal juncture in fostering my own interest in the field.”

Rabbi Wolkenfeld adds, “The occasions and circumstances that have prompted Miriam to seek our counsel or halachic advice demonstrate religious maturity, ethical sensitivity, and an idealism that, while not uncommon among our students at Princeton, nevertheless continues to inspire us,” he said.

Stephen Steiner is director of public relations for the Orthodox Union. This article also appeared in the OU’s Shabbat Shalom newsletter.

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