By Rita Poliakov
Of all the religious programs available to Ryerson students, the Maimonides Leaders Fellowship has something few offer. Cold, hard cash.
The fellowship is a Jewish organization that aims to mold young students, aged 18-26, into informed Jewish leaders.
Students are given $500 for attending one two-hour seminar a week for 10 weeks.
“(Young people) are the biggest commodity we have,” says Rabbi Dovid Zauderer, the program organizer at the University of Toronto.
“I think we should pay a gazillion dollars if that is what it takes to save the world.”
While the fellowship is not run at Ryerson University, Ryerson students are welcome to apply at the U of T sessions.
The catch is that the students be Jewish, have no part-time job and have only a little knowledge of the religion.
“The program gives a better understanding of Jewish heritage,” says Jonathan Vandersluis, the president of Hillel, Ryerson’s Jewish organization.
“I applied in my first year and got turned down because of my strong Jewish (educational) background.”
The program combines current events with the history of Judaism. Lecture topics include the Arab-Israeli conflict, love and marriage and leadership.
“It’s a very good program,” says Harry Gwartz, a fourth-year business student and former participant.
“We’re able to appreciate the teachings of the Torah. (Students) connect to Judaism.”
With a program like this it is possible that the money can be a motivator.
Rabbi Zauderer explains that the money is there so that people will not need to spend time at a part-time job rather than learning.
“There is an interview process to stop people that are just about the money,” says Zauderer. “We are looking for quality people.”
Gwartz acknowledged the importance of the $500 stipend.
“(People apply because of) a mix of both money and knowledge,” he says.
“I’m not going to lie, (the money) was part of the reason I went. But I was there for the experience, the money was an extra bonus.”
Through field trips, lectures and guest speakers, Rabbi Zauderer tries to instill a sense of knowledge and leadership in each student.
“The important thing is that the type of leadership (we see today) is not as strong as what we could have,” says Rabbi Zauderer.
“(Students need to) know what Judaism represents.” The fellowship was started at the University of Michigan and has spread throughout North America to include schools such as York, U of T and Seneca College.
Each program accepts 20-25 students per semester and is funded by the Maimonides Leaders Fellowship board as well as various philanthropists in North America.