By: Noam Feifel  | 

Updates to Wilf Shabbat Programming

Everyone looks forward to the weekend. YU students are particularly eager, since they consistently face the difficult task of balancing their personal lives and a demanding dual curriculum, leaving little time to just sit back and relax. The end of the work week provides a much needed break to recuperate and unwind.

Shabbat, the highpoint of the weekend, is especially anticipated. YU administrators know how much students treasure Shabbat and have attempted to create an experience that motivates students to stay on campus and bask in the Shabbat spirit right here in Washington Heights. Every Shabbat, one of YU’s esteemed Roshei Yeshiva comes to the Wilf campus to speak at meals, lead singing, give Shiurim, and in a broader sense, augment the entire Shabbat experience at YU. Having a Rosh Yeshiva present each week was implemented in an attempt to invigorate the student body and create an environment where they are eager to take part in beloved Shabbat traditions.

But a Rosh Yeshiva presence isn’t the only special part of Shabbat on campus. There is also an array of activities that occur over the course of the weekend including a Friday night Tisch with food and guest speakers, kiddush after Shacharit, and countless minyanim at various times to accommodate varying student preferences.

This programming appeals strongly to a large number of students, who, prior to coming to YU, spent a year abroad studying in Israel. For many, like sophomore Josh Perlman, Shabbat at YU is like an extension of his experiences in yeshiva. “Being in YU on Shabbat is like being in Israel for Shabbat,” said Perlman. “On Friday night there's the Carlebach minyan where they use the tunes that I love from yeshiva, and the zemirot at the Friday night and Shabbat day meals are exactly what I need to make my Shabbat complete.”

Although Perlman, who lives in New Jersey, has enjoyed spending Shabbat in YU, not every “in-town” student living nearby shares that sentiment. “After being on campus all week, I would just prefer to go home, spend Shabbat with my family, and be able to sleep in my own bed,” said sophomore Evan Cohen. Cohen, also from New Jersey, who has yet to stay in for a Shabbat.

In addition to the aforementioned weekly Shabbat programming, the Wilf campus welcomes a new asset this fall semester, Jonathan Schwab and his wife Dr. Esty Rollhaus. Schwab, a former YU student himself, is the current Associate Director of University Housing & Residence Life on the Wilf Campus, and he and his wife are the new on-campus couple. After holding this position at the Beren Campus in Midtown, Jonathan and Esty hope to enhance Shabbat for students in a more casual way up in the Heights. “We loved our work the last couple of years at Beren, and we hope that we can bring uptown some of what we created together with the students there,” said Schwab. “One of the many things we’ll be working on is expanding Shabbat programming to include more students whose needs have not yet been fully met by the existing programs, whether they are living in apartments, looking for smaller meals that feel more like home, or looking for more informal games and conversations.”

Beyond Schwab’s aspirations this year, YU also has some novel ideas it would like to implement. Rabbi Eitan Schnall, Director of Wilf Campus Shabbat Programming, noted that “There has been discussion with administration about the possibility of holding a co-Ed Shabbaton in Washington heights in an off-campus location.” Such a Shabbaton would be the first of its kind, and would be a new change of pace from the frequent co-ed Shabbatonim held at Beren.

Perhaps the most appealing part of Shabbat at YU, though, is the impact it can have on students like Eli Profeta. Currently in his first semester at YU, Profeta didn’t always have the luxury of experiencing the more traditional Shabbat ambiance while growing up. “There is simply nothing like Shabbat at YU,” Profeta remarked. He continued, “Growing up in Indianapolis and going to public school, it was hard to find that sort of culture. The moment I had my first Shabbat as a high schooler visiting YU, I knew where I would be going to college.”

Heartwarming stories, like that of Profeta, lend credence to how important Shabbat really is at YU. The school has, and continues to, invest in countless resources which make the programming exceptional. Whether or not students partake in it, they must admire the school’s effort to foster a meaningful, uplifting, and relaxing Shabbat experience for its students, when the tiring week comes to a close.