By: Baruch Lerman  | 

Torah U’Turkey: Thanksgiving 2020 at YU

Thanksgiving this year was different for everyone. Instead of traveling to visit relatives, families around the country stayed home, doing their part to curb the spread of COVID-19. Forgoing large gatherings, dinner tables across America were less crowded on the last Thursday of Nov. than ever before. For many of Yeshiva University’s out of town students, including myself, the usual trek home was out of the question. So like the rest of my college peers from outside the tri-state area, I did not join my family back in Maryland, and instead found myself on campus for the long weekend.

Although only about a third of the undergraduate population is on campus this semester, due to the CDC’s travel guidelines and New York’s quarantine rules for those returning back to the state, it’s possible that this Thanksgiving had the largest number of students on university grounds ever.

The Office of Student Life planned activities for the entire weekend, from a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade viewing party at Stern College for Women to a Shabbat catered by Paprika. Both campuses also offered outdoor excursions. On Thursday morning, Beren students were invited to take a walk to Bryant Park with Eim Bayit Dr. Elisheva Rosenzweig, meanwhile, Wilf students attended a hike across the George Washington Bridge.

When it came time for the evening’s dinner, there were three options available for a $10 fee, provided students signed up a week in advance: an all-men’s meal in the Heights Lounge, an all-women’s meal in the Beren caf and a co-ed feast in the Furman Dining Hall. All meals were catered by Mendy’s and consisted of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, salad and pumpkin pie. Despite the social distancing precautions that were in place, those present felt a real sense of community. At the co-ed meal, participants went around the room and shared what they were thankful for this year, a very meaningful experience in these unprecedented times. It helped that the food was pretty great.

But Thanksgiving at YU isn’t just about the food. There were four shiurim held on Thanksgiving morning, running from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. over Zoom. All of the lectures were Thanksgiving-themed, focusing on the centrality of hakarat hatov in Judaism. For example, RIETS rosh yeshiva Rabbi Jeremy Wieder relayed how the themes of the Korban Todah relate to the current COVID-19 pandemic and Director of Semikah Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz discussed the theme of “gratitude in the thought of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l.”

Although many students acknowledged that being at YU for what is generally considered a family holiday was less than ideal, most were appreciative of the experience. “I appreciated the zoom shiurim and loved to see all the different perspectives on being grateful and thankful,” shared Ariel Wernick (YC ‘22), a student from California.

“Even though it was not as large as Thanksgivings in the past, it was incredibly thoughtful and I am thankful to YU that they went the extra mile to provide a full dinner and social event on campus,” said Josh Leichter (YC ‘21).

Photo Caption: For many of YU’s out of town students this year, a normal Thanksgiving at home was out of the question.
Photo Credit: Pixabay