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Rabbi's Update 6/30/2023

Dear Friends:

I want to thank those of you who have been helping to make sure that Len, Ethan, and Oliver Lipton can say Kaddish while sitting shiva for their wife and mother Laurie Weker Lipton. The Liptons joined our shul a few years ago even though they don’t live that close by because they wanted to be part of a shul where they could make a difference -- and they really have, as we all know.

Shiva will conclude mid morning on Sunday. If you cannot come to the Lipton home, please do participate via Zoom -- we do continue to count participants via Zoom as long as their camera is on and they are visible.

For Sunday morning minyan, please note that the “Minyan of Comfort” books that we bring to the shiva home do not include the morning service. Since everyone has a siddur (prayer book) at home by this point, when you come Sunday morning please bring a siddur with you as well as tallit and tefillin if you have them.

As you most likely know, yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that colleges cannot give admissions preferences based solely on race. However, the majority ruling did say that colleges can consider how an applicant’s experience of race impacted their development. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court: “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise.”

The plaintiffs in this case and those who support them seem to believe that there is some “objective” standard by which competitive colleges and universities should evaluate applicants. In point of fact, the majority of colleges admit more than half of those who apply -- including for example such well regarded schools as Virginia Tech and George Mason. Of the 1364 four year colleges and universities in the United States, only 17 admit less than ten percent of their applicants and another 29 admit between 10 and 20 percent of their applicants.

I did alumni admissions interviews for Georgetown University for about 15 years and stopped doing them a few years ago when I started to feel it was an exercise in futility. Every year I would interview between five and ten students, almost all of whom impressed me as outstanding young men and women, and every year none or perhaps one would gain admission.

It is impossible to know why a student does or does not gain admission to a selective school and there seems to be no discernible rhyme or reason. When I lived in Connecticut I interviewed a young man who was rejected by Georgetown but admitted to, and eventually graduated from, Stanford -- a school which admits about half the percentage of applicants as Georgetown so in theory should be harder to get into. Did this young man have a family friend connected to Stanford who wrote him a letter of recommendation? Was he admitted because of geographical diversity -- presumably Georgetown has more applicants from Connecticut than Stanford does? It’s impossible to know. University rankings also take into account “yield rate” -- the percentage of students offered admission who ultimately enroll. The higher the yield rate, the higher your national ranking -- so that if an admissions office thinks a student is unlikely to actually enroll, they may reject them and instead admit another student who might have lower test scores or GPA but is more likely to actually enroll.

The point I am trying to make is that anyone who believes there is or should be some sort of objective standard doesn’t understand the way admissions works at highly competitive universities. This ruling is actually likely to make admissions even more subjective as student essays and interviews will emphasize how a student’s experience of race has shaped his or her life.

I will be on vacation from July 5 through August 2. I want to thank everyone who is pitching in to lead services, read Torah, give Drashot, and so on, during my vacation. During those times when I am out of town, Rabbi Emeritus Mark Raphael will be available for pastoral emergencies. If you do have a pastoral emergency when I am on vacation, particularly if I am still in the area, I will do my best to be available. It’s better to call or text me at 860-886-3416 rather than relying on email if you have an emergency.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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