Wilf and Beren Campuses Introduce Shabbat Programming Changes
Both the Wilf and Beren Offices of Student Life have introduced new changes to shabbat programming and pricing that are aimed at improving shabbat life on campus.
Both the Wilf and Beren Campuses have a newly implemented sign up system for shabbat meals. Whereas signing up for both meals originally cost twenty-five dollars before Wednesday and thirty-five dollars after Wednesday, the new system provides a cheaper option for students who sign up even earlier. Rabbi Brander, Vice President for University and Community life, explained in an email that signing up for shabbat meals would work as a “3-tiered system of rates set at $15/25/35, depending on when the student signs up during the week leading up to shabbat”. He added that the cafeteria staff is also offering students the ability to purchase shabbat meals online and via the YUcard App on their smartphones.
A change in shabbat programming on the Wilf Campus is the introduction of themed shabbatot. While themed shabbatot were previously primarily run on the Beren Campus, the Wilf Campus will now feature shabbatot that incorporate a large number of themes, according to Natan Bienstock, Student Life Coordinator on the Wilf Campus. Some of those themes include a 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament Shabbaton, a Politics and Civic Engagement Shabbaton, and a Summer Program Shabbaton. Bienstock mentioned that they are also looking for other clubs interested in partnering with them on shabbatons.
Additionally, the Wilf Campus will now feature floor shabbatons. These shabbatons encourage dorm residents to pray, eat, and hang out with their floor over a shabbat on campus separate from everyone else. Ilan Lavian, a resident advisor in Rubin Hall, expressed his excitement for this initiative.
“Floor shabbatons are really going to bring the dorm floors together,” Lavian said. “Last year I didn’t feel like I made so many friends on my floor, but now I feel like I will get to know everyone pretty well.”
The Wilf Campus has also introduced a shabbat campus couple. Shalom and Rivka Rosenbaum were brought in to help facilitate great shabbatot on campus by being constant presences every weekend and developing relationships with students, according to an email from Rabbi Brander. Rabbi Beny Rofeh and his wife Yoanna also joined the Student Life team as shabbat hosts on the Wilf campus. A shabbat host is different from a campus couple in that they host students at their apartment at times and eat in the cafeteria with everyone at other times. Rabbi Rofeh is currently a faculty member and Mashgiach Ruchani of the IBC program.
“Rabbi Rofeh being an official part of the campus shabbats really attracts me to eating my meals in the cafeteria and just being around campus over shabbat,” expressed Yoni Cagan, an IBC student currently living in an off-campus apartment and a past student of Rabbi Rofeh.
On the Beren Campus, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Rosenzweig and his wife Elisheva have been added as a second campus couple in addition to Rabbi Daniel and Mrs. Lerner.
Changes in Wilf and Beren shabbat programming have already made an impact on campus. The first shabbat of the year was made free for all students, a privilege that was previously available only to those who were on campus for the first time. Roughly 300 students signed up for shabbat on the Wilf Campus, according to Bienstock. According to Talia Molotsky, the Student Life Coordinator on Beren, around 300 students also signed up for the first shabbat on the Beren Campus.
In addition to the changes made to the structure of shabbat on campus, the Wilf Campus now employs a staff member whose job focuses specifically on shabbat improvement. Regarding shabbat in general and the new position, Jonathan Schwab, Associate Director of University Housing and Residence Life on the Wilf Campus commented, “Having been on campus as a student and employee for the past ten years, I am excited that shabbat at Wilf is continuing to improve and that we are providing many programs to satisfy our diverse student population with an enriching, enjoyable, appropriate shabbat atmosphere. I am especially excited that Natan Bienstock, an exceptionally passionate recent graduate and staff member, is in the position of focusing on shabbat full-time."
Like Schwab, Bienstock is optimistic about the future of shabbat life on the Wilf Campus.
“We hope that more students will feel connected to shabbat on campus and that the new programming will deepen the sense of community and camaraderie amongst the student body,” he said.
Regarding shabbat improvements on the Beren Campus, Molotsky said, “We are placing a heavy focus this year on shabbat enhancement. Our efforts include enhancing the physical atmosphere by buying new vases, flowers, and tablecloths and making a number of positive adjustments to the menu options to work in tandem with our investment in the spiritual shabbat atmosphere. We look forward to a year of dynamic shabbatot.”
In an email about future changes, Rabbi Brander said, “Students have shared with us on both the Beren and the Wilf Campuses that shabbat needs to be a focus. They have shared with us what we are doing well and where we need to improve. Therefore we have made it a priority to improve the shabbat experience with a commitment to send out surveys to see how we are doing as we move forward with these initiatives.”
“I am excited for shabbatot this year,” remarked Michael Kohan, a Resident Advisor on the Wilf Campus. “I really feel like more people are going to stay in and really improve the shabbat experience.”
Hannah Goldring, a Resident Advisor on the Beren Campus, echoed this sentiment. “Shabbatot are an important part of student life at YU. I am excited to see how the new shabbat initiatives will help make shabbat on campus an experience to remember.”