Nefesh B’Nefesh Looks to Strengthen Ties with YU, Hosts First Ever Aliyah Shabbaton On Beren
For the first time in Yeshiva University history, the Israel Club collaborated with Nefesh B’Nefesh to plan and execute an inter-collegiate Shabbat Ha’Aliyah on the Beren Campus. Beginning on the night of November 3, the Shabbaton featured four inspiring guest speakers who shared their Aliyah experiences, Q&A sessions, and words of Aliyah-related Torah.
There were 32 non-YU students who attended the Shabbaton, hailing from colleges across the tristate area such as Princeton, Queens College, City College, Rutgers, and Maryland. About 200 students participated in the Shabbaton, creating a turnout much higher than expected. Josh Sussman, Project Manager of Overseas Programming for Nefesh B’Nefesh and the man behind the scenes of the entire Shabbat, expressed his astonishment. “We were thrilled with the turnout and amazed and excited about the level of engagement throughout the Shabbat,” he said.
The Friday night discussion sessions were widely attended. Each of the four group breakout sessions dealt with a range of ideas relating to Aliyah, from practical advice to Aliyah in the Torah. There was also a Tisch Friday night.
“I really enjoyed the Tisch Friday night with Rav Yair [HaLevi]. He was a moving speaker who brought energy to the whole Shabbaton,” explained Brandon Berman, a Cornell graduate and one of the inter-collegiate students who attended the Shabbaton. “It was a very interesting and cool experience being a non-YU student at a Shabbaton like that; people were welcoming and open to us, which was really nice.”
On Shabbat afternoon, room 101/102 in 245 Lexington was packed with students for the “My Aliyah Story” panel. Students, many of which had to stand in the back due to the large audience, listened to each panelist tell their story and address Aliyah-related questions and concerns.
"The turnout at the Shabbaton surpassed our expectations, but what really excited me was the attendance at all the sessions throughout Shabbat. Every room was jam-packed!" explained Ezra Kapetansky, the Young Professionals Community Manager for Nefesh B’Nefesh in New York City. "You could feel the energy from the students that they really wanted to be there, talking about life in Israel."
Though the Office of Student Life normally rents out rooms in The Court Hotel on 39th and Lexington for Shabbatons at Beren, it rented rooms in The Wolcott Hotel on 31st and 5th for this Shabbaton. Because of the New York City Marathon occurring that Sunday, the 5th, many hotels were booked to capacity, including The Court, so OSL had to find a different housing option. The Wolcott Hotel, though smaller and more outdated, did not put a damper on the weekend. “It didn’t take away from Shabbat programming too much and I still really enjoyed myself,” said Ariel Saadon, a senior in YU and a Beren Shabbaton frequenter. Nefesh B’Nefesh put up the non-YU students in The Park South Hotel on 28th and Park.
One of the presidents of the YU Israel Club hinted at the possibility of organizing a second Shabbaton in response to the enthusiasm of Nefesh B’Nefesh to continue their newfound connection with YU and the positive reception from the attendees. “When planning this event in conjunction with YU, our goal was to bring together Aliyah-minded students in a supportive, inspirational and informative environment to learn more about the various possibilities of Aliyah,” said Sussman. “We look forward to partnering with YU again on similar events to keep Aliyah on the front burner of discourse at YU specifically and in the broader community in general.”