Molding Our Community on Beren Campus
Shabbat on the Beren campus has gotten a bad rap over the past few years. Common phrases I hear on campus are that it’s boring, that nobody really stays in, the food is terrible and it’s not co-ed. Some speak of wanting a “real” Shabbat experience. These statements about Shabbat that are often thrown around about our community invoke a certain premise that I disagree with.
Those statements compare Shabbat at Stern College to the shabbat experiences of other colleges, which is an illogical analogy. At a secular college, Shabbat life plays a very different role; when daily classes and interactions are not necessarily Jewish, Shabbat has a different value. At Stern College and Yeshiva University at large, we have overt contact with our Judaism interspersed into our everyday lives — in our classes, Beit Midrash programs and countless shiurim, and because of this, it seems obvious to me that expectations for religious programming have to be looked at from a different perspective.
Because of everyday exposure to our Judaism, finding proper Shabbat programming at Stern becomes a challenge of fine-tuning the Shabbat experience to cater to what each of us is familiar and comfortable with. Our struggles come from dealing with the conflicts that arise when our wants differ. For example, some students desire a coed experience, while others only feel comfortable in an all-female environment. Some students want programming every week complete with scholars in residence, while others want minimal guests.
These varying opinions create an incredible opportunity to mold the Shabbat experience into whatever we want. What I am advocating for a is a deeper understanding of what it means to build a Shabbat society that can put aside nuance for the sake of a greater community. I am advocating for respectful change, the type that opens our doors to our diverse student body and broadens our community. I am advocating for you to take charge of this change.
The size of the Shabbat community is growing. The students who create our core Shabbat community are a tight-knit group of people willing to put aside nuances in order to build community. And no, it is not fully coed. Because, again, Shabbat in a Modern Orthodox university looks different than a Shabbat in another college. We have both all-womens shabbatons as well as coed shabbatons. We have mixed programming and single-gender hangouts. We have women's tefillah groups as well as a minyan. We have options, and I am advocating for you to help us mold them. I am advocating for you to experience a Shabbat at Beren: where it doesn’t matter what you wear, what food you eat or what semester you are in. You will find friendship and maybe a new passion too. Our theme-based Shabbatot will expose you to strong Jewish values, ethical dilemmas in religion, big-name speakers and controversial and stimulating discussions — the sort of things that bring our community together.
Be inspired by a community that is being formed to inspire you. Come because the Shabbat community at Stern is growing. Come because you are ready for a new and diverse Shabbat experience at Beren. Come to see and learn with new perspectives. Come because you don’t want to miss out on exciting change on campus. Come because this is an opportunity to have experiential learning of how to build and lead a successful Jewish community. It’s in your hands.
Photo Caption: Shabbat on a Modern Orthodox campus merits a different approach.