By Eva Truncellito
Both of Rider’s newest chaplains believe that the college experience has the potential to not only strengthen but also challenge a student’s beliefs, and they are eager to play a part in leading students toward deeper faith.
According to Rabbi Benjamin Adler, adviser to the Rider Hillel, “One can only develop a strong faith once it has been tested.” Adler said he views college as such a test since students are making their own decisions. In fact, he said that an attraction for him in bringing his rabbinate to the college campus is the chance to help students explore their Jewish faith within the “great energy and vitality” of college life.
For Bryan Mayer, Catholic campus lay minister, the religious experience on campus is “similar to working out.” Like a challenging exercise, he said students whose faiths are tested in college can “come out stronger because of it.”
“Perseverance in the search for truth leads people down paths they never knew existed.”
Mayer became involved in campus ministry as a college student himself, and after graduation continued in youth ministry in New Jersey and Maryland. This is his first time working as a full-time minister. As a lay chaplain, he is not ordained to celebrate Mass, but he will share his faith and “guide the students in their search for God.” He is currently working on a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University.
Adler, who is currently the rabbi at Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville, is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he earned a master’s degree in Jewish philosophy, and attended Columbia University where he got his bachelor’s degree in history. He said he has been influenced by the conservative movement of Judaism and he wants to “be able to translate the values and beauty of the Jewish tradition for modern Jews.”
“For me personally, college was a time when I began to take Jewish observance seriously, and the rest is history,” Adler said. His aim at Rider is to similarly help students on their spiritual and religious paths within the Jewish faith.
Mayer noted that the Rider community is familiar to him because he grew up and lives within the Catholic Diocese of Trenton, so he already knows many of the priests and lay ministers in the area. He said his goal is to give Rider students “a sense of the depth and beauty that can be found in Catholic culture.”