The Gateway is running an ongoing special feature on members of the University of Nebraska at Omaha adjunct staff. They are the underserved backbone of our University, and we thank them for their effort. These stories have been contributed to us by students within the UNO School of Communication.
–Jared Kennedy, Editor-in-chief
There is a vitalizing charge felt as a student when in the presence of a person with a passion for teaching. Especially when that teacher’s passion first came from an unweaning thirst for a life of learning, such as Rabbi Aryeh Azriel’s.
Azriel is the newest adjunct professor in the religious studies department at UNO. His fall course focused on Hebrew scriptures, such as the Torah, the Mishna, the Old Testament, as well as other sacred Jewish texts. Though this semester was his first class taught in an academic setting, Azriel has been a teacher much of his life.
Azriel was ordained in Israel in 1983. He moved from Israel to Baltimore to pursue work as a rabbi of a temple where he remained for five years. He then moved to Omaha, where he served as the senior rabbi of Temple Israel for 28 years. During his time spent at Temple Israel, Azriel was a leading force in the Tri-Faith Initiative, a local interfaith organization including Jewish, Christian and Muslim congregations on a shared campus.
“The calling is always there but it can change, and once I completed my calling at Temple Israel, I heard it again for teaching at UNO,” Azriel said.
Bringing people together to further knowledge and understanding is something important to Azriel at his core, and is what has kept him passionate for teaching all of these years, he said.
“I have always had a passion for teaching, that’s what rabbi means after all, teacher,” Azriel said. I plan on teaching as long as they will have me and as long as my mind is sharp and lucid.”
According to Azriel, one of the many aspects of teaching at the university level that he loves most is when he arrives early to class to find students who are excited to discuss and explore the texts further. Especially when they eagerly greet him at the door and stay after the class is over to continue their discussions, Azriel said.
He will be teaching his second course, Jewish Ethics, in the spring semester.
“There are some young bright minds that are interested in big questions that move to create great dialogues,” Azriel said.
Within his first semester of teaching at UNO he has already gotten members of the community, as well as members from his former congregation, to take advantage of the university’s Passport program. The UNO program allows members of the community 65 years or older to attend an undergraduate course for $25.
“I had some hesitations at first in blending young non-Jewish students with members from the community that are better educated, judaicly speaking, but it’s been wonderful,” Azriel said. “It created a great give-and-take between the students and we’ve had many powerful dialogs.”