When students reflect on their time in Yeshiva University, many will talk more about their participation in shabbatons, clubs, and sports teams than about their time spent in classes. Naomi Kohl, who this year has replaced Aliza Abrams Koenig as the director of student life on the Beren campus, is now in charge of making sure that these memories are some of the fondest in a student’s college experience.
Kohl is originally from the greater New York area. She has many ties to the YU community, as she graduated from Stern College in 2004, and continued on to learn in two if its graduate schools, graduating from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work in 2006 and the Azraeli Graduate School of Jewish Education in 2009. After finishing her second master’s degree, Kohl took a brief vacation from YU while she and her husband, Rabbi Eli Kohl, worked for seven years as the JLIC couple at the University of Maryland. When the couple decided that it was time to move on, Kohl thought that taking a position at her alma mater would be a good opportunity for her to shine in another college atmosphere.
“I love to work with college students. They are at a unique time in their lives where they are growing and learning and figuring out who they want to become. The opportunity to be a part of their lives is a privilege. When the position [at Stern] opened up, I was so excited because this is what I love to do—I love to program and be a part of events. YU is a tremendous community to work in,” Kohl said.
Kohl found that this job, like so many, has a learning curve. “I ran into a completely planned orientation. A lot of the programs were already planned,” Kohl explained. “The biggest challenge has been jumping into the water swimming. I did not have much chance to stay by the wall and just watch the active participants to see how the entire system worked. I just started swimming. It’s a lot of learning on the go. Things are run differently here, so I am trying to figure it all out as I swim along.” Kohl added that taking up her new position was much easier than it could have been, praising Tami Adelson and the rest of her staff for welcoming her in and facilitating a smooth transition.
According to student leaders like Hudy Rosenberg SCW ‘17, the president of the Torah Activities Council, Kohl has been swimming perfectly fine. Rosenberg commented that “although Naomi is just starting in the Office of Student Life, she has come to her new position ready to use her experiences as a JLIC educator to help better the student experience at YU. She is working to be very conscious of what the students want by listening to our requests.”
For Kohl, the focus of the activities that she is in charge of organizing is always on the students. Although the Office of Student Life does plan and run certain events, such as the orientations at the beginning of each semester, or the trip to Louisiana to help flooding victims, most of the office’s work involved listening to student requests. Kohl reflected on her daily work, which she said revolves around “helping [students] with Shabbat, and all the planning that goes into that every week, helping them with their speakers and event requests, [and] different things [that] they need. We are involved with it all.” As an example, Kohl mentioned that that morning, her office had meetings with the Medical Ethics Society and the Media Club, where they talked with them about any needs they might have in the upcoming year. Her vision of the Office of Student Life is for it first and foremost be a place for helping students as much as possible when they run events. Her motto, she said, is, “I let the students run the programs, not the programs run the students.”
Kohl encourages students to get involved with activities on campus that interest them. “Come talk to us so that we could connect you to someone who is doing what you want to be doing,” she said. “If no one is doing what you want to do, we will make it happen.” Kohl recognized that students might differ in their interests and involvement, but that all is possible on the Beren campus. If you have something that you want to see on campus, Kohl’s office will be your sidekick, and help you in any way they can.