There are certain moments in our lives that are particularly suited to self-reflection. As graduation is steadily approaching, I’ve found myself more enveloped in these moments, thinking about how I’ve changed — and noticing the changes in others. Thinking about what I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the experiences most impactful — regardless of their seeming insignificant at the time. And vice versa of course — thinking of the moments we hoped would be big, that should have been big … but seem so far away now.
There are two people who, when I’m caught up in these moments of reflection, I seem to think about the most, because through them I can say I am leaving UCLA with a dual education: one in biology and the other in Jewish life — the second of which will undoubtedly be more practical, more relevant, and more meaningful as I leave the world of college. They have given to me, and to so many others, an immense appreciation and understanding of what it means to be Jewish. They have set expectations of us and challenged us because, as they’ve reminded us, we really are great, and they see it. They’ve unburied the treasure sitting in our backyards, after we’ve spent so much time looking elsewhere. Now they are moving on to their next great adventure in San Diego, and leaving UCLA behind.
And it’s for that reason, that when it came to finding a way to express my gratitude for these people, I found myself spending hours and hours thinking about just how best to go about it. Because there was just too much to say and every bit worth saying. But then I thought, why should I be so stressed to find the exact words when there are so many people who can help me find them? And so I gathered the troops.
Rabbi Rupp’s Parting Words of Advice:
1. “We spend so much time looking for meaning in college and in life. We’re like the person who spends years searching for a treasure only to find it buried in their backyard. People! There is so much meaning buried in our backyard. It’s called Judaism. It’s worth your while to look into it.”
2.“Don’t think that you can go through college without it affecting you. Most college students hide behind this idea that we are too young to make decisions, but old enough to make choices. Which is ironic. The reality is, that you are not old enough to make your own choices because more times than not you’ll make dumb ones—because that’s the nature of being young. That said, you are old enough to carry the consequences of those choices with you in a way that profoundly and psychologically impacts the kind of person you are and the relationships you will have in the future. So my advice is: latch onto a mentor you admire. Someone who is older, who’s been through it, and can guide you in making those choices, in becoming the person you aspire to be.”
3. “We all have an amazing potential for greatness. That said, we’re all replaceable. Don’t ever have an over-inflated idea of how important you are. And when it comes to affecting others, at the very best we are only gardeners cultivating their greatness.”
4. “Have your priorities straight. I’m a father first, rabbi second. Figure out what relationships are most important in your life and don’t neglect them.”
5. “Getting married is a good thing. Why? Because we’re supposed to live in an environment where we are focused on the needs of other people, on giving to people. And while you’re trying to find that ‘right’ person, don’t lose sight of the idea that you are not looking for someone perfect, you are looking to work on yourself in such a way that you become perfect for that person.”
6. “You can never completely learn to not have fear unless you have nothing to lose. You just have to learn to control your fear, that’s the key.” (Submitted by Mark Solovey)
7. “A person’s greatness lies not in what they walked into being good at inherently. It’s what they have accomplished, and how far they have come. This is a fundamental Jewish idea. Don’t forget that.”
8. “At this point, we may have no idea where we will end up one day. But the challenges that we’re going through now are the boot camp to build yourself into exactly the person you need to be in order to fulfill your purpose in this world. Wherever you will be is going to be built by those experiences now.” (submitted by Lisa Berezin)
Your Favorite “Ruppisms”:
“Fasten your seatbelt!” as an introduction to some amazing insight (submitted by Jay Saul and Tali Moore)
“You love that!” when hitting someone with a “truth bomb” (submitted by Omid Jonathon Elie)
“Yes! Do it!” (submitted by David Mostovoy)
“Ahh! This is tremendous!” while giving a D’var Torah.
Dear Rabbi and Julie Rupp:
“Thank you for creating such an open environment where I could always come to you with questions about Judaism. You’ve instilled in me an immense pride to be Jewish, and a love and understanding of Torah mitzvot. And besides being amazing teachers, you were there for me when I really need you…when my grandmother passed away. Thank you for everything. You’re truly an inspiration.” — Omid Jonathon Elie
“You guys have made my first year at UCLA absolutely wonderful. I’ve learned so much about life and being a better person by just watching you both in action and I am so very grateful for that. Thank you for always opening your home to us and offering a listening ear and sound advice. I am so sad to see you both leave, but I am extremely happy that you’re moving forward and working toward your dreams. I appreciate you both so much!” — Aviva Hirsch
“Ever since Rabbi Rupp found me on Bruinwalk, we have been the bestest of friends. I came to him with everything ranging from Jewish studies to girl advice, and he was there to console me when a very close relative passed away. I could not be more grateful for what he and Julie have done for me, taking me in every weekend for Shabbat dinner and lunch and always being there, in whatever capacity I needed. You will be the biggest part that I will miss about LA. Good luck in your future endeavors!” — Michael Basin
“The Rupps have been friends, teachers, advisors, coaches, mentors, supporters, and the closest thing to family of mine over the past five years I’ve known them. It’s sad that the campus is losing the Torah wisdom, insight, and unadulterated truth that Rabbi Rupp brings to his students and the warmth and generosity of the Rupp home during Shabbat and all through the week. Frat Row will miss you!” — Preeya Nobis
“I dare anyone to go to a Shabbat meal at the Rupps, and to not partake in some crazy controversial conversation, and come away with some sort of amazing wisdom about life. You guys make us feel like part of the family. Thank you so much for having the courage to go to some random freshmen and invite us over for Shabbat. I am so happy you did. And Julie, you are one of the kindest people I have ever met and you always have the right words to help me through the rough times. You have an amazing ability to understand where people are coming from. Rabbi Rupp and Julie, you are the heart and soul of JAM, and will be really missed here at UCLA.” — Mark Solovey
“Some are good at giving personal life advice and others are good at helping people achieve a healthy lifestyle. Some can teach Torah, while other are good at inspiring people to achieve wealth and greatness. Scarcely can you find a person that without fail, does all of these. Neither knowledge, nor faith, nor the ability to inspire, alone, can help form the type of role model that Rabbi Rupp serves to so many inside and outside the UCLA community. We are so sad to be losing our all-encompassing role model, but excited for those who will be privileged to meet the Rupps on their next journey.” — David Mostovoy
“Words cannot express how grateful I am for the Rupp family. They were the ones who put me at the starting line of my journey when it came to discovering and finding my Jewish identity. Rabbi was a great mentor and always knew how to put things into perspective. As for Julie, she isn’t just my rebbetzin. She is my inspiration. She is the woman I hope to become one day.” — Lauren Price
“My most memorable times at UCLA were at your Shabbat table … and of course, the post-workout talks on the walk home with Rabbi Rupp. Your positivity and wisdom of life has changed the way I look at my Judaism and really, my perspective on life. I do have to say though…even though Rabbi Rupp’s Torah may be spot on, his cholent meat to potato ratio still needs some work!” — Jay Saul
“It’s often hard to continue feeling connected to your Jewish roots when you feel like you’re far from home and caught up in school life. What I miss most about my pre-UCLA life are the Shabbat dinners and Jewish holidays with my family. But I am so thankful that JAM has been my home away from home where I can stay connected, and show up without knowing anyone and still feel totally welcome and comfortable. Rabbi Rupp and Julie, thank you so much for all your kindness, and for giving me a place where I can stay connected to my Jewish roots. You will be missed!” — Dalia Bessudo
“Julie and Rabbi Rupp … I cannot express enough how thankful I am for all the late night phone calls and visits when I needed you most. You guys are always there for me, and I’ve learned so much from you …about myself, about relationships, about how to be a better person, and of course, about my Judaism. Thank you for always knowing what to say, for always having your doors open.” — Michelle Zaritskaya
“You are the ultimate power couple — both in and out of the gym! Beyond being my inspiration to indulge in my inner Jew, you are the reason I have taken shape for life (pun intended). Thank you for all the invaluable wisdom and undeniable inspiration. But most of all, thank you for being you. Your genuineness is what keeps us all coming back for more again and again — and maybe also the cholent — and the adorable kids.” — Tali Moore
There are people who walk into our lives and change it forever. For me, this happened quite literally on our very own Bruinwalk, when Julie and Rabbi Rupp stopped me with the question “Are you Jewish?” I said I was. But the real truth was that I had absolutely no idea what it meant to be Jewish. And you changed that. Rabbi Rupp and Julie, you did what we all wish to do, which is to be able to leave a place and know we have left it changed for the better. The proof? We don’t want to say goodbye. And goodbyes are only difficult when said to someone who really matters.