The Wilf Shabbat Experience
Spending Shabbat on Yeshiva University's Wilf Campus is totally unique. No other college offers the amount of orthodox Shabbat programing that YU provides. Whether it is a world-renowned Torah scholar, or a great Jewish politician, YU routinely invites impressive guests to come for Shabbat. Despite this, a sizable portion of the student population doesn’t seem to enjoy Shabbat on campus. In recent years, the number of students who attend Wilf Campus Shabbatot has increased, but there is still widespread sentiment among many students that Shabbat on campus is boring, or even, uninspiring. YU’s proximity to large “in-town” orthodox neighborhoods, to which a large portion of the student body retreats for the weekends, furthers this sentiment. However, the SOY board, in an effort spearheaded by Vice President Yehoshua Brick, is taking serious steps to change student discontent with the Shabbat experience.
Perhaps SOY’s most noticeable new initiative is renaming the larger, heavily programmed Shabbatot “Community Shabbat,” instead of “In Shabbos,” the past terminology. The idea is to cater to all types of YU students, which some feel was not always done in the past.
“The Wilf Shabbat experience has historically been geared towards the more right-wing segment of the student body” said Brick. “It caters to those who want a yeshiva experience. That’s awesome, but it does leave out some other people in the institution who want more of a traditional Shabbat experience. That’s why we created the community Shabbat. We’re not trying to take away from the feel of a yeshiva Shabbat; all of the yeshiva-styled programming is fantastic. We are just adding other events that we hope will appeal to a different crowd, making Shabbat on campus more inclusive and enjoyable for all students.”
There are a number of different new events that have and will be taking place during the coming Shabbatot in order to make Shabbat on campus more appealing to the general student body. For the first time, there will be events without a specific Torah aspect, but instead geared to appeal more broadly. These are not designed to take away from Torah study, but rather to bring another type of student to the Wilf campus for Shabbat and give him something exciting to do.
Another idea that the SOY leaders are implementing is students panels. These have been popular on the Beren campus for years but have never made it to the Wilf campus Shabbat. The idea is to have different students with similar, interesting stories speak about their own experiences, followed by questions from the audience. SOY hopes that an event like this will draw a wide array of students with a range of interests.
The idea of making Shabbat more appealing to a wider YU student audience is an interesting one. Only time will tell if SOY will be successful with their new initiatives, but they are certainly innovative. At the end of the day, Shabbat is a time of religious devotion where YU students can come together for a day of rest, and SOY, the elected student government responsible for religious areas of the student experience, is trying to make that day more enjoyable for everyone.