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Not For The Birds: A Week Of Halachic Learning At Princeton

“There are campuses where we have been back two and three times. The feedback is always positively enthusiastic. They want more!”

Said JLIC Director Rabbi Ilan Haber, “The Orthodox Union is a multi-faceted organization with broad educational and programmatic resources. As a constituent part of the OU, JLIC benefits greatly from access to these resources. In particular, there has been a long and fruitful collaboration between JLIC and OU Kosher, which has enabled JLIC to provide high-level, engaging content relating to keeping kosher in a modern world in a manner that is relevant and practical to college students.

At Princeton, Rabbi Loike gave several presentations, up to two hours in length. They included:

* Introduction to halachic ornithology and the kashrut of quail;

* Sharpening a shechita knife and the varieties of invalid shechita;

* Dissection of a chicken to observe the internal signs of a kosher bird;

* Identifying non-kosher chickens in one’s local kosher supermarket;

* The kashrut of partridges and the identity of the biblical “slav” – a bird eaten by Jews in the desert (noted in Parshat Beha’alotecha);

* The kashrut of ducks and geese;

* The kashrut of pigeons and doves;

* The kashrut of chicken species.

He also participated in the shechita of chicken, quail, and partridge, and gave a hands-on lesson in gutting and cleaning birds and then soaking and salting them.

Rabbi Wolkenfeld gave two shiurim, including one on “Why Keep Kosher.” Rabbi Silver of Cornell gave a shiur on eating meat in the Torah.

The students were involved beyond their classroom work. According to Rabbi Wolkenfeld, “They pitched in and helped cook Shabbat meals at our home. I think it added to the experience by giving participants full continuity in each stage of preparing the meat, from learning why a specific species is kosher, to assisting the shechita, to cleaning and gutting the bird, to melichah [salting], to cooking the birds, and then finally to enjoying them at a Shabbat meal.”

The students clearly enjoyed the program. As Aminadav Grossman, a junior at Columbia from Riverdale, NY, wrote: “Overall, it was a very enriching week in which I learned a great deal from formally engaging with mekorot [sources], discussing the texts and ideas with participants, and from unique experiential learning led by Rabbi Loike. The program gave me a newfound appreciation for the intricacies of the halachic system through gaining a conceptual knowledge of differentiation between kosher and non-kosher birds and the processes of shechita and melichah.

“Additionally, actually going through the entire process of preparing meat from the slaughter through consumption at Shabbat dinner reinforced my convictions about the morality and sensitivity of the halachot. Rabbi Loike was a dynamic and entertaining teacher who was also incredibly knowledgeable about the areas we studied and I really appreciate that we were able to have him. I think the shiurim, the various philosophic understandings of kashrut and on eating meat in Judaism added a valuable component.”

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the program for the Wolkenfeld family was turning their home into an aviary.

“The birds that were brought to Princeton for Rabbi Loike’s demonstrations lived in our basement for the week,” he said. “Heading down to the basement each evening to give fresh food and water to chickens, quail, partridges, doves and a goose, and waking up each morning to a rooster’s crowing, has certainly been a unique experience in my years as a campus rabbi. Our kids loved visiting the birds each morning before going to school – and the house seems strangely quiet now.”

Stephen Steiner is OU director of public relations.

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