Josh Jeffreys, recently named Jewish chaplain and director of religious life in the office of the chaplaincy, always knew he wanted to help people learn more about their faith and turn it into action, he said.
The multifaceted elements of religion speak to Jeffreys because his wife isn't Jewish and his faith is something he has had to navigate throughout his own life, he said.
The long process of finding the new Jewish campus chaplain was narrowed down to three finalists and Jeffreys was the favored candidate, university chaplain Craig Kocher said. People from all over the world applied and went through a series of phone interviews and met with student committees, he said.
Jeffreys was already part of the Richmond Jewish community because he has worked with UR Hillel and the students within the Jewish community. UR Hillel is “a pluralistic organization for Jewish student to explore their identity among the backdrop of an elite liberal arts campus," according to UR's chaplaincy website.
There are two essential parts to being the Jewish campus chaplain, Kocher said. The first part is working as the leader of Jewish life on campus by communicating with students and helping build the relationship with the Richmond Jewish community, he said. The second part is helping students discover what they believe in while also learning about other communities and beliefs.
“In a pool of strong candidates he excelled,” Kocher said. “He has shown himself as an effective leader.”
The various committees Jeffreys met with were very impressed by his vision for the future, Kocher said.
“With everything going on in the country as far as discourse, I want to present civil discourse and focus on the things that unite us not divide us,” Jeffreys said.
Jeffreys said he had two visions for UR. The first vision is to make Jewish life more inclusive by making sure major holidays are observed. The second is to develop a more comprehensive Jewish life by making programs for students, faculty and the Richmond community, he said.
Jeffreys is currently enrolled in UR's MBA program because the strategy behavior and organizational tools he is learning will better enable him to set a course for Jewish life on campus, he said.
“It is a rare combination to connect warmly and strategically,” Kocher said. “Jeffreys brings a strategic mind and great work ethic.”
Jimmy Bernstein, junior and previous oversight coordinator for Hillel, agreed.
"I'm thrilled that Josh was hired," Bernstein said in an email. “Having worked with Josh for the last two years, we all know how great of a leader and person he is. He did so much great stuff for Jewish life on campus when he was working part-time as the interim head of Jewish life. I am so excited to see what he does once working full-time."
Jeffreys shared Bernstein's enthusiasm for the new position.
“In many ways it’s a perfect job for me,” Jeffreys said.
Contact contributor Kate Breed at email@example.com.