Joey Bendah – Heb U Spring 2012 – University of Arizona

Dear Mr. Seidel and Mr. Milstein, My name is Joey Bendah, I am a Junior at the University of Arizona taking a semester abroad in Jerusalem. Just to give you a little background about myself, I come from a completely secular family; calling us reform would be too overly religious. Fortunately, my mother sent me to an Orthdox after school program to give me a basic Jewish education. Although I had somewhat of a Jewish education, I thought the same about Judaism as many of those do within the United States. I am to go to Hebrew School until I reach Bar Mitzvah, thereafter, I would never be seen in a synagogue again. Fortunately for me, I had a series of events that changed this mainstream path for me and caused me to go astray. At fifteen years old, I went to a Jewish summer camp with a mission of being ‰ÛÏpluralistic‰Û, but just like many other Jewish organizations in the United States, it was overly biased towards the left and non-traditional Judaism. After attending this camp, I realized the ideals and values that are going through mainstream American Jewry, as I heard my peers‰Ûª opinions on Judaism. These ideals and values, if I can even call them that, were accepting of intermarriage, the breaking of Shabbat, and no longer keeping kashruth. From that point I realized, if this was what a majority of American Jewry believes, where will the Jews of America be in as short as only fifty years. The day I got back from camp, I told my mother I wanted to keep the laws of kashruth. Both she and I alike were told by others it was a phase that I would get over in a few weeks. Although, five years later, not only do I keep the laws of kashruth, but I also keep Shabbat and strive to study in Yeshiva part time. The real question was how was I able to do all of these things? What organizations made these things possible for me? It is simple; the Jeff Seidel Student Center is a model organization of support for kids like me with no guidance in Judaism. My first encounter with Jeff Seidel was last summer at the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity convention in Orlando, Florida. I did not speak to him much, but I admired what he brought with him. I have heard of many people trying to expose Jews to religion with classes and food, but never have I seen it with books. My first exposure was with the gift of two siddurim, one of which I gave to my girlfriend as her first ever siddur, so she too could grow in her Judaism. The idea behind giving Jewish students Judaic books is ground breaking and life changing. There is a reason parents growing up do not want their kids watching television, but would rather them in the library reading. It is the same reason why these books work it gives us an opportunity to learn for our own about Judaism. In fact, it may be the only reason why I study chumash weekly, because I have the ‰ÛÏAsher Milstein Edition‰Û sitting on my desk. So why did I write you this letter? I said to Jeff, how many people thank this guy who donated all of the books for students like me to keep when I would never be able to spend the hundreds of dollars they are worth, and he told me, ‰ÛÏnot many‰Û. This is my letter to you, thanking you for the books I have benefited off of and to assure you that there are many more students just like me that have benefited. Besides that, there are many more not like me that have your books as their only connection to Judaism which are their little hope to gaining a connection like mine. Thank you so much for everything you have done for the Jewish community and the Jeff Seidel Student Center.

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