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Our Couples on Campus

Malka Forster

Frum mekarvim on college campuses get to connect with young adults standing at a crossroads in life — an unparalleled kiruv opportunity. Yet, they’re also surrounded by a culture anathema to Torah values. How do they navigate the challenges?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Katy, a sophomore at Chicago’s Northwestern University, strolled into the Livingstone home at 11 p.m. one Friday night. “No challah left?” she groused. Hostess Tamar — who’d laboriously prepared a lavish spread for 70 Jewish students — stifled a retort. Unbeknownst to her, the scene would repeat itself tens of times: Katy would saunter in late, then find numerous reasons to kvetch, broadcasting negativity. She showed a near-total disconnect to others’ feelings, often demanding to talk when Tamar was overwhelmed or in the middle of bedtime. “I remember thinking ‘Man, she’s ungrateful!’ ” Tamar says. “I made an effort, but just couldn’t develop a relationship. She was negative about everything.” Despite misgivings, Tamar stretched herself to welcome Katy each week. When she organized a college trip to Israel, the dynamic kiruv professional feared Katy — who wanted to join — would pull down the group, but she ultimately yielded. For Katy, the tour proved life-changing. “When she came for Shabbos afterward, she cried to me in the kitchen,” Tamar reports. “She had a breakthrough in Israel, something deeply touched her soul.” Over the next several years, an inspired Katy committed to Shabbos and tzniyus and, more astoundingly, revamped her personality. Today, she is frum and happily married, with exemplary middos. “We have never seen a student grow so much,” Tamar says. Like hundreds of couples worldwide, Tamar and her husband Josh engage in full-time campus outreach, today’s most popular — and arguably effective — form of frontline kiruv. They assist fellow Jews in discovering their heritage during college, a time when students are unrestrained by prior relationships and excited to make definitive life choices.

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