By: Tuvy Miller  | 

From The President’s Desk: SOY President Tuvy Miller

Hi everyone. My name is Tuvy Miller and I’m the President of SOY (Student Organization of Yeshiva) this year. I wanted to write about a new initiative that we’ve started this year. Several weeks ago, you might’ve seen signs around campus about a Community Shabbat. Many people were confused. Is this the “In-Shabbos” from past years? A project of the Shenk Community Shul or Mount Sinai? I’d like to take this opportunity explain the thinking behind the new Community Shabbat.
Traditionally, Shabbat programming on campus has successfully served the portion of the student population that prefers a Yeshiva-style Shabbat. Inviting Roshei Yeshiva, holding tisches, arranging shiurim and eating meals in the Caf - all of these were components of the In-Shabbos program which helped foster a Yeshiva feel on campus for Shabbat. Fundamentally, for many of these students, their YU experience revolves around the Beit Midrash and they feel that YU is in many ways a continuation of their time in an Israeli yeshiva. We value this sentiment and work hard to ensure that these students have the experience they’ve come to enjoy.
However, a large number of students at YU feel that they are primarily attending college, not yeshiva. Many of them either leave campus for Shabbat or stay and have meals with their friends off campus. They would prefer more student generated Shabbat programming and that includes more of a variety of intellectual and social offerings. Essentially, a Shabbat that is much more similar to the way it occurs on other campuses.
The shift to the Community Shabbat name is indicative of a deeper shift that we are orchestrating in the campus Shabbat experience. The “Community” name means that Shabbat is being geared towards the entire undergraduate community here on the Wilf Campus. The longer term goal is that on most Shabbatot, if not all, there should be at least one program that speaks to the different pockets in our diverse student body. The Community Shabbat is the way of kicking that off and presenting the new concept to the student body. In an effort to utilize their input and empower students, a Shabbat Committee has been formed with SOY VP Shua Brick taking the lead on our overhaul of Shabbat on campus. Working together with the Office of Student Life, this committee has been brainstorming and will begin implementing some of their ideas in the near future.
I’d like to give you a sense of some our new ideas. This year we are privileged to have Dr. Esty Rolhaus and Jonathan Schwab (Associate Director of University Housing and Residence Life, Wilf Campus) living on the YU side of the Heights. They were previously the Campus Couple on the Beren Campus and did a tremendous job of enhancing Shabbat programming there. In addition to their day jobs, they have both been heavily involved with the planning and implementation of some of our new programs. They are working together with Ephi Strazynski, Assistant Registrar, who is doing his Wurzweiler field work to help enhance our Shabbat community. One such program that’s already been implemented has been the Schweopardy game that they’ve run several times this semester. A variation of Jeopardy, this exciting trivia game, often held parallel to the weekly Parsha shiur, has attracted significant crowds and has been a great way for guys to have fun together over Shabbat. This kind of parallel programming is exactly the model that we’re beginning to implement.
There is also an effort in motion to expand the range of speakers who we invite to campus for Shabbat. The Roshei Yeshiva who’ve been coming for years will continue to be warmly received here and the programming that revolves around them still remains in full force. The Shabbat Committee has been putting together a list of speakers, from within YU and beyond, who will be able to provide a range of Torah perspectives, as well as perspectives on politics, Israel and contemporary medicine. This will be complemented by efforts to allow students to share their own thoughts on the Parasha and contemporary issues. This past Community Shabbat, Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, Dean of the CJF, held an informal discussion at Esty and Jonathan’s apartment that was well attended and the hope is that this will morph into a student-led discussion going forward.
All in all, the Shabbat programming that many have come to love is here to stay. This new Community Shabbat effort will hopefully make YU a place where more guys feel at home and can find meaningful religious experience in an organic and authentic way.