Jewish Arizonans on Campus welcomes new rabbi

Rabbi Mitch and Chana Goldstein welcomed a group of young Jewish men for Friday night Shabbat dinner with open arms, homemade popsicles and a greeting from the new Jewish Arizonans on Campus rabbi’s 5-year-old daughter, Mimi.

Goldstein said his family got a reputation of being relaxed and “chill” while working at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Toronto. They moved to ASU during the summer of 2014 to replace former JAC rabbi Yehuda Weiss, who is moving to Chicago to work for a campus organization at Northwestern University.

“In my field, there’s a lot of movement,” Weiss said. “Everyone knows each other. … I met the person who was doing that, and he mentioned that he was considering leaving and wanted to know if I wanted to take over.”

He compared it to a promotion — he will be his “own boss” in Chicago. His family, which consists of a wife and four children, will miss ASU though, and he said it has given them a lot.

“A lot of connections to amazing people,” he said. “When I teach, I learn a lot, so I guess that’s what it gave me the most of.”

The vacated post left by Weiss is a big hole to fill. The rabbi led JAC and Friday night dinners for each Shabbat and taught the Maimonides class on ASU campus. The Goldsteins are ready to fill this post.

Maimonides is a 10-week course in which students get paid $400 to take classes to get what Goldstein describes as “Judaism 101,” learning about Jewish philosophy and wisdom. Students learn Jewish ideals from how to be happy to relationship advice.

“Plus, my wife makes an awesome dinner to go with it, and every week we have a different theme,” Goldstein said.

The family is all about food. They provide themed meals during Maimonides class and Shabbat. Themes in the past have included Hawaiian, sushi, Israeli, Indian and Mexican.

Additionally, they said, the two Jewish sororities on Toronto’s campus loved Chana; she provided them with chocolate, events and mixers and life advice.

Chana’s life advice typically came in the form of feminism, and she has a blog based around this ideal at http://www.reclaimingpink.com.

“It’s about getting women to really think about where we are right now,” she said.

She said many women are beginning to think the fight for feminism has become unnecessary, but Chana points to the sexual assault numbers on campus as proof that some things are getting worse, not better.

“Women need to realize it’s still an issue — not because we’re victims or because it’s our fault, but because by having an awareness and promoting an awareness and coming out of the gate empowered by the way you deal with the world that you live in is one of those major steps,” she said.

Goldstein said it is not common for Orthodox women to be actively feminist.

“I think it’s refreshing to find an Orthodox women who is so feminist and can look at Judaism and society in general through that lens,” he said. “I think it’s something unique that my wife brings to the table.”

Goldstein said this helps create a positive vibe that guests have noted. They are relaxed, and not forced to do anything they’re uncomfortable with in terms of prayer or talk.

“I think one thing people ask us oftentimes is, ‘What’s your agenda?’” Goldstein said. “I always say that my agenda is your agenda.”

Chana described Shabbats as very peer-led. If people want to do Friday night services, they’ll hold them. If guests want to go straight to dinner, they’ll go straight to dinner.

“A lot of people really appreciate our relaxed approach,” the rabbi said. “We create a non-pressure environment for people to explore their Jewish connection.”

Reach the reporter at Logan.newman@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Logan_Newsman