By Jonathan Chau
– The Daily Orange
The Chabad House at Syracuse University has hired Zalman Ives as its new associate rabbi and program director. His sole focus will be on supporting Jewish undergraduate students.
Ives said he developed his passion for Judaism through his upbringing. Both of Ives’ parents joined the Chabad movement before they met. Growing up in London, Ives only attended Jewish private schools, where he learned the foundations of the Jewish faith.
“It’s not just dry context,” Ives said. “The Torah provides me with a more meaningful life.”
Ives described two major components of being a rabbi: studying Jewish philosophy and engaging with the Jewish community. The latter is why Ives said he decided to become a rabbi.
“He is very dedicated, a hard worker with strong perseverance and has a great personality. He is able to connect with students,” said Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport of SU’s Chabad House.
After Ives spent several weeks at the university, Rapoport chose Ives to be the new rabbi for Chabad at SU. Ives had been a rabbi for the last three years, traveling and working privately with no permanent station before coming to SU.
Rapoport said he has no thoughts of retiring after Ives takes over as the new rabbi. He has been involved with the house since its creation 36 years ago. Rapoport will continue to serve the Jewish community, but he and his wife will be focusing on young professionals, along with graduate and medical students.
“It’s definitely exciting, but it’s weird because the old rabbi and his wife feel like parents to us,” said Raquel Wedgle, a senior majoring in public relations and the president of Chabad at SU.
As an international Jewish organization, Chabad has 3,500 centers across 81 countries and all 50 states, including about 200 universities. However, the faith accommodates for its local surroundings.
“We pride ourselves in adapting to the local needs and creating a homey atmosphere,” Ives said. “Essentially, a home away from home where we are all part of one family.”
SU’s Chabad House was formed in 1981. The house promotes a community where Jewish students can comfortably express and practice Judaism, Ives said. Chabad has an open-house policy to encourage and support students no matter their level of faith.
Ives said his goal is to engage with “every single one” of the estimated 2,500 undergraduate Jewish students at SU.
One of the main components of Chabad House is its Shabbat services. On Friday nights and Saturday mornings, students participate in a religious service followed by a homemade kosher meal.
Rapoport also plans to open a new Chabad center that will focus on families and children.
As the director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central New York, Rapoport has also helped open four other Chabad Houses at the State University of New York Oswego, SUNY Cortland, Colgate University and Hamilton College.
Though Ives is still transitioning into his role, Wedgle said he did a great job interacting with students both in Chabad and with the university as a whole.
“As a rabbi, I answer questions about Jewish law and being kosher,” Ives said. “Though that is important, what most interests me is interacting with other Jews and connecting them to Judaism so they love it as much as I do.