Thursday, October 06, 2005

Columbia Shliach Makes Bris On Campus

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Columbia Shliach Makes Bris On Campus

Lerner Student Center at Columbia University
(Columbia Spectator) Lerner has served as a rocking glass house, an architectural experiment, and a vaguely uncomfortable study center. 

But until yesterday, it had never played host to a bris. 
That all changed when Rabbi Yonah Blum, of Chabad Columbia, and his wife Keren Blum had their eight-day old son circumcised in the party space at noon yesterday.

A bris, the Yiddish term for the ceremonial circumcision of an eight-day old boy, known as a brit milah, is also when parents formally name their baby. 

�Usually, when you�re a rabbi in a synagogue, you have a bris in the synagogue, and you invite your constituents,� said Rabbi Blum. �I�m a rabbi at Columbia, so I thought, what better place to do this than the Columbia campus?�   

Rabbi Eliyahu Shain, who performed the circumcision in front of several student onlookers, said he has performed the ritual on university campuses in the past, though it�s not the norm. 
�Usually, Chabad rabbis would do it at the Chabad house,� he said. 

But Rabbi Blum said his house �is too small for that.� 
Many of the approximately 100 guests at the event were Columbia students who had found out about it from the Chabad mailing list or through word of mouth. �I went to Rabbi Blum�s house last year one Friday night,� said Jeffrey Feder, SEAS �07. �We told stories and had a few drinks, and we�ve kept in touch since then. Then I read about this in one of the Chabad e-mails.� 

According to Jewish custom, Rabbi Blum did not invite anyone formally to the circumcision �because it can spread the evil eye,� and said he had no idea how many Columbia students to expect. 

�I think Rabbi Blum and his wife have a very open and welcoming presence on campus,� said Lisa Almog, whose husband, Rabbi David Almog, is one of the rabbis at Columbia Hillel. �They really encouraged everyone to come.� 
Rabbi Almog said he has known Rabbi Blum since he was an undergraduate at Columbia. �I had the honor of studying with him every week,� he said. �We used to meet at Starbucks.� 
Yitz Brilliant, a graduate student at the School of the Arts, said that Yonah and Keren Blum are �very laid-back, non-judgmental, and open.� He added that �a lot of students go to Chabad for Shabbos meals, and he told all of them about this.� 

During the traditional ceremony, Rabbi Blum explained the various rituals and practices involved in the circumcision as everyone gathered around to watch. Before the lunch that followed the ceremony, Rabbi Blum said, �the first part of the bris was a spectator sport, but the second part requires everyone�s participation. Please, be a part of the seudah [festive meal].� 

Andrew Lebwohl, CC �04 and special assistant to the University chaplain, said it�s easy to understand the large presence of students. �Rabbi Blum is an incredibly warm man who opens his house every week to Columbia,� he said. �It only makes sense that everyone would want to share in his celebration.�

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