Texas A&M adds minor in Judaic studies
Former and current Aggies gathered in College Station Oct. 21-23, to celebrate the past, present and future of Hillel at Texas A&M. The weekend commemorated the 10th anniversary of Hillel’s new building and the 100-plus-year history of Hillel at Texas A&M. The weekend was organized by Co-chairs Arlene and Lawrence Maze of Austin and Nancy Brand of Houston.
The weekend began with Friday night, student-led services, followed by a kosher barbecue dinner. On Saturday, participants toured Kyle Field and were allowed to visit suites and walk onto the field level.
The Saturday evening gala centered on recognizing those who have demonstrated extraordinary resolve and history-making achievement to continue, enhance and improve life for Jewish students at A&M.
Gerald Ray and Donald Zale of Dallas received Mensch of the Year awards. Lenny Krasnow, president of the M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation, described the efforts each of these men took to facilitate a Jewish studies minor at A&M. The Judaic studies minor will begin in Fall 2023, with full course offerings during Fall 2024. Course offerings will include Intro to Judaism and Hebrew.
Dr. Gary Gross of Tyler, grandson of Esther Taubenhaus, talked about his grandmother and her efforts in establishing a Hillel at Texas A&M in the early 1900s. Esther and her husband, Dr. Jacob Taubenhaus, arrived in College Station in 1916. Dr. Jacob Taubenhaus was the first Jewish professor at A&M and possibly in the entire Southwest. Upon realizing there was no organization for Jewish students, the couple founded the Menorah Club. In 1920, the organization changed its name to Hillel and in 1923 joined the national organization. Esther ran the Hillel chapter in College Station until 1957 and spearheaded the effort to establish a Hillel building at A&M.
Taubenhaus Award recipients for 2022 are longtime board members: Marvin Noble of Dallas, Marc Sheiness and Richard Wolf of Houston and Michael Wolf of Beaumont. Robert Wolf of Dallas, one of Hillel’s youngest corporate board presidents, was honored with the Emerging Leader Award. Risa Bierman, executive director of Hillel, presented the awards and stated that she “has the greatest job in the world, spending each day with the most wonderful students.”
Students explained to the gala attendees the importance of Hillel to their college experiences. Hillel allows them to develop leadership skills, while developing friendships and ties to Judaism that last a lifetime. This has been a Hillel tradition on the campus for over 100 years. Students making presentations were: Becca Deutsch (Dunwoody, Georgia), Noah Friedman (San Antonio), Jonathan Postelnik (Austin) and Emily Chilton (Frisco).
On Sunday morning, a brunch was held at the Hillel building. Chancellor John Sharp addressed the crowd. He recounted his remembrance of the new Hillel building’s dedication in 2012 and, at that time, presenting Hillel with an olive tree from Israel. He told the crowd that he is pleased that A&M will have Judaic studies in its course offerings and hopes to see more Jewish students attend A&M in the future.