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Shabbat Enhancement Committee Hosts Campus-Wide Forum

With the recent buzz of the Shabbos Project, when Jews from all over the world - 212 cities representing 33 countries in total - came together to keep one Shabbat together, many Yeshiva University students cannot help but have Shabbat on our minds. For students that spent a gap-year or two in Israel, the majority of Wilf Campus, in-yeshiva shabbatot were a highlight of every week abroad, a fond memory for all.

Replicating these experiences here in America, however, can prove difficult.Though Shabbat is a still time to relax, enjoy good food, and hang out with friends, college students here at YU often have trouble feeling the traditional yeshiva Shabbat experiences on campus. A large part of it certainly has to do with the sense of community. In Israel, everyone at your yeshiva was in it together, sharing the same experiences and commitment to the program and institution. At a large place like YU, Shabbat can seem fragmented and disjointed. Many students who live in the New York/New Jersey area go home for Shabbat, and people from “out of town” sometimes cannot help but feel stuck here.

Last week, Jacob Bernstein, the president of the Student Organization of Yeshiva, led an open forum to discuss some ideas and changes to enhance Shabbat on campus. After inviting suggestions from the YU student body though a Google form, the forum itself took place in Rubin Shul one night after Maariv. The consensus among attendees was that Shabbat programming at YU always maintained a bit of a narrow focus. The schedule, as designed by the Office of Student Life (and this year, specifically by new rabbinic intern, Rabbi Daniel Abraham), seemed to focus towards those with a “yeshivish” background, as one student put it. Though expectations of meals with divrei torah and zemirot, a tisch after dinner, and parsha shiur after Shacharit, are legitimate and permissible, ideas were proposed to appeal to a broader crowd; one student suggested that YU host an open forum or discussion, perhaps moderated by students or a professor, instead of a rosh yeshiva leading the tisch.

Another main issue many students brought up were the setting of YU cafeteria meals. Putting the quality of food aside - and it has improved since the miscommunication of the first two weeks of the year - some simply do not enjoy the expansive, university-wide experience, and prefer a private meal and a smaller setting. To address this, some students suggested setting up a program whereby people with apartments can sign up to host others, and students can sign up to be hosted. Zvi Zobin (Syms ‘15) was interested in thinking about planning a Washington Heights co-ed shabbaton. “If we can simultaneously offer male-only programming, whether here on campus or in a nearby community, I certainly think we can arrange for accommodations and meals for a number of Stern students,” Zobin voiced. Office of Student Life representative Elie Hirt registered Zobin’s suggestions, and the two hope to meet again to further discuss the idea.

Though most kinds of programming changes are still very much in the planning stages, both SOY and the Office of Student Life welcome any and all suggestions from students!