Four Jewish students at U discuss their faith

by Elizabeth Cook

JEditor’s note: This story is the second in a five-part series that examines students’ experiences with different faiths. Throughout the week the stories will look at Christianity, Judaism, Islam and atheism/agnosticism. Friday’s story will look at the results of a Minnesota Daily survey on religion.

1udaism is more than a religion, it’s also a culture.

In Judaism there are three main branches – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform – which affect and influence the members’ lives in varied ways. These are the stories of four students who associate with different branches, including one who considers himself “cultural” but not religious.

Craig Ancier

Craig Ancier, an international business senior, was raised as a Conservative Jew and now considers himself Orthodox after a birthright trip to Israel he went on in 2004.

These trips are offered to Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 who never have been to Israel on a group trip.

“When I went there it made everything (clear),” he said.

Orthodox Jews are expected to follow many day-to-day rules.

“I live my life,” he said. “It’s who I am; I abide by the laws.”

Those laws include keeping kosher, praying three times a day and wearing specific clothing.

Ancier said that because he keeps kosher, he brings his own lunch to school.

Kosher food excludes, among other things, shellfish, animals that prey and split-hooved animals that don’t chew a cud.

Ancier wears a yarmulke and tzitzit, which is similar to a vest with strings hanging down, reminding its wearer of the Ten Commandments.

Ancier prays three times a day – morning, afternoon and evening.

From Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, Ancier celebrates Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.

During this time he refrains from many activities such as driving, watching television or doing homework.

“It’s a day where you separate yourself from physicality,” he said.

Ancier also can’t attend classes during religious holidays such as Passover.

It’s an excused absence, he said, but it’s very difficult.

During religious holidays in which he refrains from schoolwork, he must complete it ahead of time. If there’s a test he’s going to miss, he will take it ahead of time because he won’t be able to study during the holidays.

There are also societal standards in the Orthodox branch.

Ancier said he does drink alcohol, but within limits. He said he wouldn’t go to a college party, though.

The men and women at parties are together, and Ancier said that in his branch of the religion there is separation. Also, there might be women dressed in a way he wouldn’t prefer.

“The laws of modesty apply to men and women,” he said.

Orthodox women wear skirts that end below the knee, shirts past their elbows and they’re not allowed to have any collarbone showing, he said.

When it comes to dating and marriage, Ancier is interested only in Jewish women.

Ancier said he wants to marry someone who also will want to raise their children to be Orthodox.

Emily Levine

Emily Levine, a natural resources sophomore, follows some of the same rules as Ancier, but not to the same level.

Levine considers herself a Conservative Jew.

She said she does keep kosher in her own home, but will go out to eat with her friends to a restaurant that does not specialize in kosher food.

She said she will refrain from eating meat to ensure she’s following the basic rules of kashrut, the kosher laws.

Levine said she knows restaurant dishes probably have been used to cook nonkosher food, but she eats the food anyway.

“I just say I’m doing my best and just deal with it,” she said.

During religious holidays she tries not to work, but if she has to, she will.

For example, during Passover she skipped some classes the first two days, but went to some after that because it’s close to finals week.

Levine said she’s very involved with Hillel Student Cultural Center – the only Jewish student center on campus.

When she first started attending classes she lived in Bailey Hall. She said there were no Jews there and it just felt weird because she was used to being around Jewish people at home.

To find some people with the same Jewish connection, she went to Hillel.

“Now I have my dorm friends from last year and my Jew friends,” she said.

Eli Zimmerman

Eli Zimmerman, an art and English senior, said he considers himself Reform – a more liberal view on Judaism.

For example, Zimmerman eats what he wants and considers the religion more cultural than spiritual.

“I would die without bacon and eggs and shrimp scampi,” he said.

Zimmerman said he experiences his religion through culture, like certain traditional foods at his grandmother’s house.

Zimmerman works at Temple Israel as a youth group adviser, but doesn’t attend services.

“I don’t remember the last time I was at a service, probably in high school,” he said.

Victor Rogachevsky

Victor Rogachevsky, a linguistics senior, is Jewish, but he said the religion doesn’t affect his life, although he has started to incorporate it a little more.

Religion was never a part of his life growing up because he lived in the Soviet Union and it wasn’t allowed, he said. He moved to the United States in 1992.

“I thought all organized religion was stupid,” he said.

His mother considers herself an “atheist Jew,” he said, someone who believes in the culture but not the religion.

Rogachevsky said he also looks at Judaism from a cultural point of view.

Through bonding and hanging out with similar people, he got a job at Hillel.

“I would come here and just hang out and now I’m working, getting paid,” Rogachevsky said.

When he started studying the Torah, Judaism’s primary holy text, he said his family got worried he would disown them, turn Orthodox and move to Israel.

Rogachevsky said he is only studying the Torah because it gives him a different view of life, but he doesn’t think it’s changed him a whole lot.

Lately, Rogachevsky has been bringing more Jewish tradition into his family.

He said his family gets together for Passover, but they don’t really get into the religion aspect of the meal.

This year, Rogachevsky said, he talked a little about the tradition for a few minutes.

“I also said a blessing over the wine and the blessing over the matzah,” he said. “That was fantastic.”

Becoming more involved and having more knowledge about the religion has brought about some changes in his life.

Rogachevsky said that in the past few years he’s decided he wants to marry a Jewish woman.

“I want to bring my kids up Jewish,” he said. “More so than my parents did with me.”