Antisemitism at Cornell Countered With Unique Tefillin Campaign

As Cornell University is in the news for antisemitic events on campus, there is something else newsworthy happening on campus, but for spreading light, not darkness.

As Cornell University is in the news for antisemitic events on campus, there is something else newsworthy happening on campus, but for spreading light, not darkness.

Over the past weekend, Cornell University was launched into the spotlight when a series of antisemitic threats were made against the school’s Jewish community in online posts over the weekend, and police opened investigations.

For Cornell student Mati Lancewicki, it is just another push to expand his unique tefillin project, one that has seen much success on the campus over the past months.

Lancewicki, who is also the founder of the EZRI luxury backpack company, launched the EZRI Tefillin challenge for fellow students just over a year ago. It required each student to lay tefillin daily for forty days and take a selfie of him himself wrapped up. At the end of the challenge, he would receive a luxury EZRI backpack.

After its huge success, and in response to the situation in Eretz Yisroel, the challenge has now been extended to campuses across the country and multiple Cteen chapters as well.

“College life at Cornell made me drift from Judaism, but this semester, things changed. Every morning, I now start my day by wrapping tefillin. It’s not just a ritual; it’s my daily power-up. With every wrap, I feel more connected, more charged, more me,” one student shared after taking part in the challenge.

The team is now extending the challenge to students across America in a new 30-day challenge to fight anti-Semitism on campus, support Eretz Yisroel with mitzvos, and spread Jewish pride. They are spreading the word and inviting campus shluchim and students across the country to take up the challenge and join the efforts.

The students wrote up about the challenge and posted it up on their LinkedIn account:

“The challenge isn’t fleeting – it requires commitment, pushing participants to wrap for a significant 40 consecutive days. The dedication doesn’t go unnoticed; upon completion, participants are rewarded with a $200 value EZRI Sling bag, generously donated by EZRI. And the outcome? Many find a deeper connection to their heritage, continuing the practice beyond the challenge,” the organizers wrote.

“In recent times, as darkness engulfs parts of our world with terror attacks in Israel and a distressing surge in anti-Semitism, this challenge couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. To counter the prevailing darkness, the team behind the Tefillin Challenge amplified their efforts. The challenge became more than a personal journey; it emerged as a beacon of hope, radiating light, fostering Jewish pride, and offering inspiration to students. Amid the chaos, it’s an act of reclaiming identity, and pride, and spreading goodness,” they said.

In a conversation with, Lancewicki says that the ripple effect of this initiative has been remarkable. Starting at Cornell, where over 60 students have embraced the challenge, it has now resonated across boundaries, reaching 10+ campuses and touching the lives of hundreds of students across the USA. Word of mouth, combined with the evident transformation of participants, has fueled this incredible growth.

“The challenge’s success wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of a dedicated team. A heartfelt shoutout to Lisa Gerber and Sarah Wolfolds, our incredible professors; Ryan Neice, our insightful MBA Coach; and the driving student force composed of Matias Lancewicki, Adam Abergel, Mathew Breitman, Marty Levine, and Adam Nerenberg. Their passion is the bedrock on which this challenge stands, fostering connections, reviving traditions, and making a difference, one wrap at a time,” he said.

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