Exploring your faith and others
Union values religion as a crucial part of cultural diversity and student identity and is dedicated to building religious fluency among students. Multiple religious and spiritual groups thrive on campus, and the College has several spiritual advisers (listed below) to offer guidance and support to students.
Meet the advisers:
Bonnie Cramer: Director of Hillel
Bonnie Cramer is a magna cum laude graduate of Brown University. She has spent the last two decades serving the Jewish community, from Sisterhood president to Executive Board member of her congregation. In addition to serving as director for Union College Hillel, she puts a chef's jacket on Friday afternoons to facilitate a student-cooked Shabbat meal.
Cramer spent 14 summers at Camp Ramah of New England in her position as Rosh Mumchim and taught for seven years in the Schenectady Midrasha. She co-led the art and spirituality workshop for the Greater New England Jewish Women's retreat for a decade. Temple Israel in Natick invited her to serve as Scholar-in-Residence in 2008 to teach Kabbalah. Cramer also taught the Jewish mysticism segment in a Union philosophy course. She loves young adults and feels privileged to work with the Jewish students at Union College.
Genghis Khan- Muslim Student Adviser
Heather Kirk-Davidoff: Campus Protestant Minister
Heather Kirk-Davidoff stepped into the position of Campus Protestant Minister in July 2018 as Viki Brooks stepped out after serving the Union community for 20 years. Heather was born in Schenectady to a Quaker father and an Episcopalian mother, grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota in a Presbyterian Church and was ordained in 1994 by the United Church of Christ. She has led a United Church of Christ congregation in Somerville, Massachusetts, an interfaith group in Washington, D.C. and a progressive independent church in Columbia, Maryland. She and her husband Dan (a climate scientist) moved back to New York last year and Heather has loved getting to know the area. She and Dan are parents of twin sons who just graduated from college, a daughter who is a sophomore in college and an adult foster daughter.
Inspired by Jesus’ life and words (Matthew 25:31-46), Heather has worked with teams to buy houses for people who are struggling with homelessness in Howard County, Maryland and to teach Alternatives to Violence (avpusa.org) at the Greene County Correctional Facility in New York. Together with other volunteers from the FOCUS Churches in Albany, Heather serves breakfast to anyone who needs it on Wednesday mornings. She struggles daily to maintain a contemplative prayer practice. She looks forward to becoming a companion to Union students as they travel their own spiritual journeys.
Shmuly and Laiky Rubin: Co-Directors of Chabad
The fourth of ten children, Laiky was born in Jerusalem and was raised in Montreal, Canada. She spent her elementary and high school years at Beth
Rivkah Academy where all the General Studies were taught in French. In fact, she is fluent in four languages: English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish. Upon completing high school, Laiky went on to pursue a degree in Special Education in Israel. She dedicated one semester of her learning to extended fieldwork and traveled to Riga, Latvia where she coordinated Jewish programs for all ages ranging from preschoolers to college students. Laiky then moved to Brooklyn, NY, taught on the Upper West Side and met Rabbi Shmuly. She went on to teach students with special needs at Yeshivah of Flatbush.
Rabbi Shmuly was born and raised in Albany, New York. His studies took him from Toronto to Manchester,UK, Brooklyn to California, and finally to Melbourne, Australia where he received his rabbinic ordination. Once married, Rabbi Shmuly taught at a Yeshivah in Brooklyn. He managed the operation of www.hebrewbooks.org, digitizing and preserving over 13,000 old Hebrew books, in addition to serving as the junior editor of Jewish-Holiday.com, an informative Jewish magazine. Rabbi Shmuly is a teacher of Chassidic philosophy and mystical Judaism and loves the intricacies of the Talmud.
Inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe's call to reach out to every single Jew, regardless of their background and affiliation, and instill Jewish pride and awareness, Rabbi Shmuly & Laiky chose to join the network of 165 worldwide Chabad on Campus centers and work with the Jewish community at Union College. Their strong educational backgrounds enables them to serve the address for Jewish learning at Union. As a family, Shmuly, Laiky and the boys, Mendel & Yitzchak, are happy to open the doors of the Chabad House to Jewish students and serve as a "home away from home" for them.
Together with the dedicated student board of the Union Chabad Jewish Student Group, they are doing everything to create a vibrant Jewish life at Union.
David Stagliano: Roman Catholic Student Adviser
Born and raised in Mechanicville NY, he enjoys cooking and traveling as his time allows and being involved in works of mercy and service with young people as a means of living out their call to serve others. David attended the College of Saint Rose where he was actively involved in Campus Ministry and Student Government. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Saint Rose in Business Administration, with concentration in Finance and Economics. After 18 years working in the Financial field, and many years as a volunteer in the world of Youth Ministry he was invited to a full time Youth Ministry position at St. Vincent DePaul parish in Cobleskill NY. It was here that he was able to make use of his finance background by coordinating the parish’s finance and administrative tasks, as well as facilitating the parish’s adolescent catechetical/youth ministry program. He also was part of the parish’s pastoral team that also was responsible for a Catholic presence on the campus of SUNY Cobleskill. After seven years in Cobleskill he moved on to a full time Youth Ministry position at Our Lady of Grace parish in Ballston Lake NY. After two years at OLG, David was offered a position at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany as the Associate Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry. David has studied in the Masters of Pastoral Studies program at St. Mary’s University, Winona MN and since 2015 has been given the responsibility of Associate Director of Diocesan College Campus. The Diocese appointed David to Union College as advisor to Roman Catholic Students in the summer of 2017.
Jyoti Swaminathan: Hindu Student Adviser
Jyoti Swaminathan, Psy.D. has taught Hindu Epics and the Bhagavad Gita at the Hindu Temple in Loudonville for the past 8 years. In addition to her clinical practice, she has been an instructor at the Assisi Institute in Vermont, OASIS - University at Albany, and the Union College Academy for Lifelong Learning (UCALL). Her lectures have centered on archetypal lessons illustrated in the Eastern and Western epics and Eastern religions.
She has been a student of Eastern wisdom traditions and Hindu philosophy since her undergraduate years at The College of Saint Rose, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree specializing in Asian studies. She also holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from Antioch University in New Hampshire, a Master’s Degree in special education from Saint Rose, and a Master of Social Work degree from Syracuse University.