Silver Spring, Maryland.
Experience: Working last summer on a kibbutz in Israels
Jordan Valley. Though Ive previously held jobs which required
hard work, I came to love waking up early, working with my hands,
He is a member of a Chevra Kadisha, a group that prepares
the dead for traditional Jewish burial.
major: History and/or Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
Class: A freshman seminar taught by Professor Robert Engs,
which combines biography with
history of the Gilded Age.
Jacob Boyars was considering colleges, the presence of a large Orthodox
Jewish community on Penns campus appealed to him. But when it came
time to select a dorm, he consciously chose not to live in
one of the high rises that has an Orthodox Jewish residential program.
if I decided to go to a secular university, it was kind of ridiculous
to only associate with people who come from the same background
as myself, he says.
who deferred admission to Penn to spend a year in Israel, studying
at a yeshiva and working on a kibbutz, that background also includes
volunteering as a member of a Chevra Kadisha. The job is
one which the community needs done, and which few people are willing
to do, Boyars explains. I am far from the best Jew in the world;
far from the best Jew I can be. I feel that by taking part in this,
I can carry out an awesome and grave responsibility, essentially
helping someone to prepare for an important meeting for which he
is unable to help prepare himself.
Kadisha, which translates, approximately, as group of purity,
are those who carry out the requirements of Jewish law in preparing
the dead for burial, Boyars says. When someone requests a traditional
Jewish burial, a group of four or five men (or women, if the deceased
is a woman) from the available pool are assembled.
to Boyars, The job consists of cleaning the body, saving any dam
nefesh (blood of life). The actual tahara (ritual
purification) consists of pouring a certain volume of water in a
constant stream, about three household buckets worth, while reciting
the phrase tahor hu (he is pure). At that point, he explains,
the deceased is then dressed in shrouds, shards of broken pottery
are placed on his eyes and mouth, and he is sprinkled with dirt
from Mount Zion. The body is placed in an all-wood coffin.
the process, the main concern is kavod hamet (respect for
the dead). That means no extraneous talking, no passing things
over the body, generally gentle treatment of the body, and attempting
to keep his eyes and private parts covered at all times.
work with the Chevra Kadisha when I was in 10th, or possibly 11th
grade, Boyars says. My father was a team leader, so by going with
him those first few times I was able to ease into it pretty comfortably.
into Penn has been another matter. From the 20-minute walk to reach
kosher dining services to the party atmosphere that permeates the
dorms, Boyars has encountered a number of differences from the life
he grew up with in Silver Spring.
to be alone on Friday night, sitting in my suit and kipa,
while everybody else is out partying, he says. For the first week,
and now every Thursday through Saturday, everybody on my floor [in
Hill College House] goes out and gets trashed. Thats all they can
think of doing. Im friends with some of them, and theyre cool
people, but Im fundamentally not into [the party scene].
down, he adds, everyone who got into Penn was a tool in high
school. Now that theyre here, they [say things like] Dude, I have
no idea what class Im in. I was trashed, and I tried to go to sleep
on a table
If people are really like that, then okay, but theyre
just putting on a show because of what they think other people will
be impressed by.
truth is, he says, I know Ill stick it out at Penn. Its not
the first time Boyars has immersed himself in an unfamiliar atmosphere.
Before coming to Penn he spent about nine months learning in a yeshiva
in Jerusalem, which I concluded rather emphatically
was not my
cup of tea. In spite of this, I stuck it out, learned a great deal,
and more importantly formed some incredibly close relationships,
both with other guys and the rabbis.
summer, he went to work on a kibbutz, Sde Eliyahu; its members are
Orthodox Jews who support the State of Israel and serve in the Israeli
army. Boyars would rise at 4:15 a.m. to work in the date grovespruning,
planting, and laying irrigation linesfinishing before the worst
heat of mid-afternoon. I met some fantastically interesting people,
and got to live in a world which most suburban-bred undergrads,
even those with religious and educational backgrounds similar to
mine, would never dream of, he adds.
if he expects to return someday, Boyars says, I feel a very strong
personal connection with Israel. I feel its in a very precarious
position in the world. So if I have the ability to help with that,
I kind of have the responsibility to do so. Boyars briefly touches
upon the Middle East conflicts, then apologizes if hes sounding
too political. In yeshiva I was the big leftist. I was arguing
all the time. Here at Penn I was hoping I could be the Zionist.
Im disappointed I havent had any big arguments yet.
Pre-Penn Experience: Wrote speeches
for a congressman.
Major: Philosophy, Political Science,
Tunstall must have liked what she heard whenever she tuned in to
the orations of U.S. Representative Bob Etheridge on C-SPAN. After
all, during her junior-year internship with the North Carolina congressman,
she wrote many of his speeches. It was an exciting experience,
listening to him talk and thinking, I wrote that. Because Congressman
Etheridge had a smaller staff, Tunstall explains, I was given more
responsibilities and tasks than I would have been given in a larger
office. Towards the end I did pretty much all of the speechwriting,
and I also did some legislative work.
that experience as well as internships shes had in private law
firms and participation on her high schools model-judiciary team,
Tunstall comes to Penn with a serious interest in law and government.
She hopes to participate in Penns Pre-Law Mentoring Program, Black
Student League, and a host of other campus organizations, but my
grades are the priority.
of the social scene, she says, I dont drink, first of all. So
most of the parties here Im not really interested in, and I dont
go. Or [my friends and I] will do what we call taking a walk.
Well walk over there [to the fraternities] and walk back.
says she has bonded with many of the residents in DuBois College
House, where she lives. Its like a small community, and there
are lots of activities such as house meetings and Sunday brunch.
And she has already begun training at the student TV station, where
shell be helping with a sports talk live programat first behind
the scenes, and later, she hopes, in front of the camera.
the most exciting aspect of Penn so far for her has been the opportunity
to listen to campus visitors like linguist Noam Chomsky C48 G51
Gr55 Hon84 speak at Irvine Auditorium and take classes under individuals
whose books shes read or whose faces shes seen on television.
For example, Tunstall read Sociology Professor Douglas Masseys
American Apartheid over the summer; she has a class with
him this semester. She also is eagerly awaiting a class that Dr.
Michael Eric Dyson, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities,
will be teaching next semester. I read his book, Holler if you
Hear Me, and his biography of Martin Luther King. Then I saw
him on BET. I thought, Wow, he teaches here. Thats incredible.
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