Rabbi David Wolkenfeld on why it’s important for committed Jewish students to be connected on-campus
Peter Berger’s book The Heretical Imperative explains that traditional beliefs collapse not in the face of logical arguments that counter them, but in the face of a changing “plausibility structure” that assumes a contrary understanding. A college student may never hear a logical argument denying the possibility of Divine Revelation or deconstructing our embrace of the sanctity of Jewish family life or undermining Zionist pride rooted in millennia of indigenous Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael. Instead, a student will sit through courses and conversations with peers in which the entire context of the conversation presumes—without ever resorting to an explicit argument—that these elements of Orthodox belief are false.
This is why being connected to a campus Orthodox community, attending public shiurei Torah and minyanim, is vital for maintaining emunah in a way that might not be true for a conventional community of adults. Starting and ending each day with tefillah b’tzibbur (something that both men and women do while at college), punctuating the week with shiurim and chevrutot, creates an alternative plausibility structure in which remaining a reliable link in the chain, demonstrating emunah, is normal and assumed.
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, “Faith on Campus: The Critical Role of an Orthodox Campus Community”, Jewish Action (Winter 2013), 50.