The Hillel, UM’s center for Jewish students, recently welcomed a new addition to its staff: Rabbi Sam Bregman.
Bregman, a 25-year-old, grew up in Boca Raton and is familiar with Jewish life in South Florida.
He graduated from Emory University with a law degree.
“Orgo knocked me out of pre-med, so what else could I do?” he said.
Bregman once thought that the Torah had little to offer him, since most of it was irrelevant to modern life, but he felt that there was something missing in his life.
“I was someone who had it all, but I knew that something was still missing, just a feeling I had in my gut,” he said.
Bregman did not realize until halfway through law school that spreading the Jewish faith was what he felt called to do.
Bregman attended Yashiva [seminary for men to study the Torah]in both New York and Jerusalem.
Bregman now resides in a house off of San Amaro Drive with his wife, Mandy, and their three-month-old son, Aaron.
Twenty-five might sound a little young to be called “Rabbi” [meaning teacher], but Bregman believes that his youth helps him to be a better teacher.
“Many people meet me and say, ‘Wow! You’re the youngest Rabbi I’ve ever met,'” Bregman said. “Most students have never had a relationship with a Rabbi so close in age and life experience, someone they can so easily relate to.”
“You can call me, the ‘Un-intimidator,'” Bregman said.
The Collegiate Learning Exchange, a group whose mission is to “provide authentic and meaningful Jewish experiences to college students,” offered Bregman a job in Miami, close to UM, hoping he would enrich the campus Jewish community.
Shortly after that, Bregman was also offered the job as Hillel’s campus Rabbi.
So far he is happy with both of his new positions.
“The Hillel staff has been very welcoming and friendly,” he said. “I have been impressed by their professionalism and commitment to the students.”
UM is equally thrilled to have Bregman here.
“Rabbi Bregman brings new energy with the Collegiate Learning Exchange,” UM President Donna E. Shalala said. “We are excited by his arrival and look forward to working with him to improve the quality of our students’ experience.”
Bregman’s goal for UM is ambitious, but he is confident it can be done.
“My main goal is to increase the number of Jewish students interested in Judaism,” Bregman said. “I aim to create a vibrant environment where Jewish students can come to explore their heritage in a user-friendly, welcoming environment, irrespective of their current level of involvement or denominational background.”
Although he has been here a only year, Bregman has already had several successful programs through Hillel, including a class on Kaballah [Jewish mysticism] last semester, as well as an ongoing project called PiT [Partners in Torah] in which prominent members of the Jewish community come to the Hillel so students can mingle with them.
The PiT meets every Wednesday from 8 to 9 p.m. at the Hillel.
Other programs include a “wildly popular” beginner’s service, in which Bregman explains the traditions of Jewish worship services.
Bregman frequently has students as guests in his home for Shabbat and has taken students on Jewish tours.
Last semester he took students to Atlanta.
This semester he has planned a big trip to New York City for Spring Break.
Students who have worked with Bregman reacted positively to the newcomer.
“Rabbi Bregman is perfect for the University of Miami, and his dedication to his students is infinitely appreciated because his efforts have provided insight and inspiration,” Adam Bernheim, freshman, said.
Bregman’s advice to students, having so recently been one, is:
“Take advantage of the college years to explore your heritage, whatever it is,” he said. “You’ll never have as much free time or intellectual curiosity.”
Rabbi Bregman encourages students with questions to contact him at RabbiBregman@aol.com.