Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

A story of synergy and friendship


March 16, 2018

Terri Susan Fine, Ph.D., with Rebbetzin Rivkie Lipskier.

Every photo tells a story, and what you see here is no different. The photo shows two women, smiling and happy. On the right is Rebbetzin Rivkie Lipskier, Chabad at UCF co-executive director, wife, and mother of five young children. I stand on the left, professor of political science at UCF, wife, stepmother to two adult children, and old enough to be Rivkie's mother. Rivkie and I met about 11 years ago when she moved to Central Florida with her husband, Rabbi Chaim Lipskier, who, like Rivkie, serves as co-executive director of Chabad at UCF. Make no mistake though. Despite Rivkie and I both being Jewish women living in Central Florida, we are very different.

Rivkie and I are standing beneath a bridge. Can you see it? It is a bridge that cannot be seen with the naked eye but is unmistakably there.

That bridge represents the long-term synergy and friendship that Rivkie and I share. Synergy is the idea that two very different elements, such as people, combine forces to create something greater than each element alone. Synergy cannot occur without different elements because without those differences something far greater than the sum of each person's individual contribution would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. After all, if we are too much alike then we would bring the same strengths to the partnership and, consequently, the same deficits.

The photograph was taken at the UCF Student Union on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, about 45 minutes before sundown. Interesting. Two Jewish women in the secular UCF Student Union awaiting the start of Shabbat. We were not in synagogue or a Chabad center where one might expect to find a Chabad rebbetzin and certainly, as infrequently as I go to the UCF Student Union, it is never on a Friday night, with one exception. Once a year Rivkie and I find ourselves in the UCF Student Union for the Chabad at UCF "Mega Shabbat" where hundreds of Jewish students, their parents, Jewish faculty and their families, alumni, community members and special guests, join together for a spiritual, delicious and festive Shabbat dinner. Guests change from year to year, of course, as students graduate and faculty new to the university join in. For example, two years ago, one of those special guests was Rabbi Levik Dubov. Rabbi Dubov brought with him members of his own young adult congregation, including several UCF alumni who had celebrated "Mega Shabbat" in that same Student Union ballroom as UCF students. Rabbi Dubov didn't make it to "Mega Shabbat 2017," though, and for very good reason. He was in Paris celebrating Shabbat a few days before his wedding to the lovely Slava Edelman. Rabbi Levik and Rebbetzin Slava Dubov now make their home in downtown Orlando as co-executive directors of Chabad of O'Town. Many of the young adults experiencing Yiddishkeit with the Dubovs spent their college years with the Lipskiers at UCF.

In many respects the UCF Student Union represents the invisible bridge in the photograph that we know is there. The Student Union sits at the center of campus, and my role as Chabad at UCF's faculty adviser is to handle so much of the secular necessities that any student group requires. These duties include signing forms for events and budget requests, reviewing Student Government Association program bills, and handling concerns that arise when students have difficulty securing accommodation when their religious observance conflicts with class requirements. Rivkie, on the other hand, and along with her husband, serves as a critical center for Jewish life on campus by bringing Yiddishkeit to the very same secular space. They use meeting space in the Student Union for "pasta and parsha" classes every week while Rivkie offers classes just for women. Together they spend time staffing a table on the front patio of the Student Union every Wednesday, sharing smiles and kosher brownies. For holidays the Lipskiers, along with student volunteers and sometimes their children, bring Yiddishkeit to students and other passersby with a "Sukkah on Wheels" and, more recently, a megillah reading for Purim (in costume, of course) on that same patio.

Do you see the bridge now? It is the unique and special bridge made possible by friendship and synergy.

Terri Susan Fine, Ph.D., is a professor of political science, UCF and faculty adviser, Chabad at UCF.


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