The Real Rabbi

Samantha Bashaw

Reena Judd has a passion for all things Jewish. This should come as no surprise as she has been Quinnipiac’s Rabbi at the Herald House for Jewish Life for 13 years. However, Judd, who will immediately offer you a coke when you walk through the door and then later a slice of cold pizza, takes being a rabbi into a completely different perspective.

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In those 13 years she has created a Jewish life on campus that is thriving and continues to grow under her guidance.

“When I started here, eight kids would come once every five weeks and we would have a Sabbath experience. We didn’t have a dinner, we just got together and lit the candles and did the Jew,” Judd said, reminiscing on her first experiences at the university with a smile.

Yet Quinnipiac was not new territory for the Rabbi either. Her mother was the school’s librarian for 23 years.

“I grew up as a part of Quinnipiac and the job grew [as well],” Judd said.

Originally the school had no need for a full- time rabbi, but as the demand increased over the years, so did the likelihood that Quinnipiac was once again going to be her home. When the position opened up, students who had heard her preach reached out to her, and the rest was, well, history.

“I love this community,” Judd said. “I love working with people your age. I think it’s being right on the cusp of tomorrow because you’re the ones. It’s your world, it’s your dreams that are going to happen, and it’s your ideas. So to be part of that process and be a part of that influence, it’s cool.”

For juniors Gabriel Weis and Alexandra Clarke, co-presidents of the Herald House for Jewish Life, Rabbi Judd’s passion for the youth is evident.

“Rabbi Reena is one of the most compassionate and caring individuals that works for Quinnipiac University. She will drop anything and everything if you need something or just want to talk,” Clarke said. “If students do not like to pray, they are there anyway because the Rabbi respects their way to ‘Jew’. She is a wonderful person who deserves the utmost respect.”

Weis agrees with Clarke’s sentiments about Rabbi Judd, especially after working with her for roughly two years now.

“She never ceases to want to help people. Working with her is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at QU,” Weis said.

Rabbi Judd’s passion for working with students is what sets her apart from others.

“The students are what I love,” Judd said, confirming every comment spoken by those who know her best. “I don’t preach much, I listen.”

These listening skills help Rabbi Judd’s students achieve both their personal goals and the goals for the Herald House.

“The students tell me what to do and I get what they need to do what they want,” Judd said, referring to a box of funfetti cupcakes that Clarke wanted to bake and reminding herself of the frosting that she had to pick up later that day.

Judd’s commitment for her students goes beyond baked goods.

“Part of how I do my thing for right or wrong, I don’t care how it gets done, as long as it gets done and that gives the students a flexibility to learn and do it on their own and trust themselves.”

The students really are the Rabbi’s prized possessions, as well as the Herald House that she has converted to simply be an extension of herself. Her office walls contain pictures of past and present students, photographs of flowers from her garden and even an image of a homemade American flag she created which is made up of tomatoes that she had grown and eggs from her and her husband’s chickens. Everything has a

story and Judd is eager to share the moments in her life that have made her the Rabbi so many adore and love.

Judd’s walls are also adorned with images of graffiti which give a little background to who she is.

“I just think it’s magnificent art and it’s so available and it’s so bright and alive,” Judd said. She displays images of graffiti that had the words “Be Who You Are,” “Risk,” and “Love” on them and recalls places such as Israel and Detroit where she had first discovered their beauty.

And then there’s the Rabbi’s infamous wolf necklace. It is a simple piece that depicts the silhouette of a wolf made out of a beautiful silver material that has glimpses of rainbow colors through it that hangs on a long black cord.

“I have hundreds of pieces of jewelry, and this is the only piece I wear…I wear it every day,” Judd said.

Perhaps the reason why it is so significant to her is the fact that she bought it with her first ever paycheck from Quinnipiac 13 years earlier.

“I didn’t expect to be this happy with this job,” Judd said of her role here as the university’s full- time Rabbi. “I didn’t expect to love it so much.”

However, through her passion for Judaism, helping students and a pure heart, Rabbi Reena Judd has become an essential player at Quinnipiac, influencing others beyond Challah bread and Sabbath readings, to profoundly being influenced herself.