As we start a fresh academic term on campus, it is only appropriate that we get to know the new family running the Jewish Awareness Movement (JAM) at UCLA, the Hanflings. For those of you unfamiliar with JAM, it is an institution located in the midst of frat row. The facility runs programs every week and is a place where Jews on campus may find inspiration and have fun.
Rabbi Naftali and Chayi Hanfling recently moved to UCLA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where they lived for the past three years as the leaders of the UCSB JAM community. I found it refreshing to see the excitement and desire this couple has to make a difference in the lives of students.
Rabbi Hanfling is originally from New Jersey and holds a masters in computer science, while Chayi hails from New York and works, concurrently, as a JAM leader and a social worker. This warm and energetic couple is now doing their best to make Bruins feel as though they are a part of the Hanfling family.
After learning about JAM, I went to check out the organization’s building, where regular events are run. Walking into the facility, I expected to see a small space with a couple of chairs and tables. To my surprise, the center included a large room with two chic couches and a huge flat screen TV on the front wall. The center also included a balcony for barbecue socials and a separate room intended for lectures.
Rabbi Hanfling and Chayi run JAM programs at UCLA every week. Their main program at the moment is the JAM Mix. JAM Mix takes place every Wednesday night and includes classes that help students bring out the best in themselves. Rabbi Hanfling and Chayi also put on regular social events so that college students can get to know one another. Every Shabbat, Chayi cooks homemade meals for students joining JAM’s dinner and lunch. There are also usually low cost trips offered during school breaks. Currently, a trip to Poland is being planned for this coming winter break. In past years, the Hanflings have run other trips to Israel, New York, and London.
While I might sound like I am advertising JAM, it is only because I loved my experiences in the community. People at JAM are always looking to connect with others and the Hanflings, themselves, are usually available for guidance or simply to hang out. The couple is also open to discussing internship opportunities in almost any field (including those outside the realm of religion) with students. If you ever run into them on campus, the couple will probably invite you for coffee.
According to its website, JAM operates on multiple campuses in Southern California. It aims aims to allow Jews to interact, to explore their Jewish identities, and to be inspired by their religion.