Left to right, front row: Florette Cohen, PhD; Lielle Magorri; Corporal Sean Kaplar, USMC; Shifra Title; Rena Berkovitz; Robyn Scheer; Dmitry Lyubarskiy; Back row: Unidentified Israeli soldier, David Graf, Rabbi Dovid Winiarz, Eti Yosef

The Staten Island Jewish Alliance (SIJA), with the support of Survival through Education and  KosherTroops.com,  hosted  a meeting on the CSI campus recently, which featured Rabbi Dovid Winiarz, Co-Rabbi at the College’s Multi-Faith Center, and Corporal Sean Kaplar of the United States Marine Corp., a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rabbi Winiarz, brought greetings from Co-Rabbi Rabbi Yitzchok Greenfield. He also, in his introductory remarks, discussed the significance of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim. 

Rabbi Winiarz wears many “yarmulkes” in his position at the Multi-Faith Center at the College of Staten Island. “As a Rabbi,” he explains, “it’s not just about running programs; it’s about the students knowing there is someone they can turn to for career advice, dating advice,  etc. I  have been involved in funerals and weddings from my students as well as  just being a listening ear. Another critical factor is that I make sure everyone knows I accept them where they are; I never judge a person and try to change them. Students, and even faculty, appreciate knowing that when  we talk, it’s on their terms, not mine. If  I have wisdom to share, I don’t force it on anyone. It’s really just about caring.”  

For his part, Corporal Kaplar shared his experiences from the front lines as well as explained how his faith  played a crucial role in his  life, thus far. Speaking from the heart, the corporal shared his life story to date as well as dreams and hopes for the future.  In addition to answering questions about a wide range of topics, the Corporal stayed after his talk to help pack Shaloch Monot, the traditional gifts that the Jewish people share with each other on Purim.               

Discussing the SIJA, Rabbi Winiarz says that the organization “and Survival through Education Inc. believe that by providing the unified educational framework that Jewish students can follow, there will continue to be opportunities to give back to the greater College community and beyond, into adulthood. SIJA has brought students to Israel and back to CSI who have taken leadership roles throughout the country, benefiting  the communities in which they settle. The sister organizations have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of pounds of food being channeled to families in need, job placement and retraining, as well as thousands of hours of Chesed (kindness) programming.”