Anywhere In The Heights & Anywhere In Town Aim to Enhance Shabbos Life for Wilf Students
Two initiatives called “Anywhere in the Heights” and “Anywhere in Town” have been established for Wilf Campus students to help facilitate attending and hosting Shabbat meals in Washington Heights and around the New York area. The programs were spearheaded by Jacob Bach (YC ‘21) and Tzvi Moshe Wagman (SSSB ‘20), members of the YU Unity Club.
With two new WhatsApp groups up and running, the rules for each program curate an organized platform for pairing hosts to guests. Only hosts can write in the group, while potential guests respond privately to the host if they would like to be invited. Once the guest is paired with a host, they can let them know if they have any special food dispensations, or if they should prepare a dvar Torah.
“I was thinking about a concept of Anywhere in Israel”, Wagman said, referring to the website in Israel that allows strangers to connect with hosts for Shabbos. “I thought, why not bring this to YU to give students the opportunity to have a more ‘homestyle’ Shabbos experience?” The goal was to help students who felt that they were “stuck” in YU every Shabbat while also giving those who live “in town” an opportunity to host people without needing to put in the work to find students who need somewhere to go.
When asked why he was the first to offer to host a meal for the fledgling initiative, Teaneck resident Aryeh Burg (YC ‘20) said, “Why shouldn’t I be opening up my home to people who aren’t as close to home as I am?”
While they are aware that a couple of years ago, a similar initiative with the same name never got off the ground, they figured they would revamp the idea to streamline the process of meeting new people, a key aspect of the YU Unity Club’s platform.
Due to the trouble they had attempting to build a website to match their goals for the new program, the new program has settled on using WhatsApp as the main platform for connecting students.
“I would be incredibly happy if the students running the new ‘Anywhere in the Heights’ used the old ‘Anywhere in the Heights’ website,” described Shua Brick (YC ‘17), founder of the original “Anywhere in the Heights.”
The idea has been a culmination of various projects the YU Unity movement has created, including handing out business cards that say “Have a great day!” on them, solely to cheer up students. This idea, along with “Anywhere in the Heights,” came out of one of the movement’s brainstorming sessions.
The impetus for the “YU Unity Movement,” an effort to, as Bach says in his own words, “create some positive vibes” on campus, came last year when Bach was a Yavneh Fellow at the fellowship for Jewish life on campus leadership. He realized that the YU community could use a little positivity and friendliness. Getting surprising looks from people after saying hello, made Bach feel like there had to be something he could do.
One of the incredibly memorable first events was handing out half donuts to random students as long as they agreed to give the other half to someone they do not know and introduce themselves. A similarly styled event took place around Purim, when students were given bags of Mishloach Manot as long as they agreed to give another bag to a student whom they did not know.
Regarding the future of the YU Unity Movement, Bach and Wagman “hope that these projects take off and are able to enhance the Shabbos and YU experiences of both our ‘in’ and ‘out of’ towners. We think it would be great if students at Stern would want to start their own ‘Anywhere in Town.’”