Minyanim Return to Beren Campus for the First Time Since Pandemic Began
A Rosh Chodesh minyan took place on the Beren Campus on Monday, April 12, and the Shabbat minyanim on Beren are returning, starting this week on April 16 and 17. These mark the first minyanim on the Beren Campus since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campuses in March 2020.
Roughly 40 students from the Beren Campus attended the minyan, which took place in the Lea and Leon Eisenberg Beit Midrash in Stanton Hall and was organized by Beit Midrash Committee (BMC) President Sarah Berman (SCW ‘22) and Torah Activities Council (TAC) President Nina Siegel (SCW ‘21).
Before Rosh Chodesh, an email was sent to Wilf undergraduates informing them of the minyan, so Beren students could have the minimum of 10 men, and 12 students signed up to attend. Isaac Breuer College Representative Baruch Lerman (YC ‘23) was also involved in helping recruit men for the minyan. The men were given a complimentary breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and Dunkin Donuts coffee after the minyan.
Shai Rosalimsky (SSSB ‘23), one of the students who came to Beren to be a member of the minyan, shared with The Commentator why he decided to join. “When covid hit, it was frustrating when there were no minyanim going on and you had to daven every single day in your house,” he said. “When I was finally able to daven with a minyan it was the best feeling, so I kind of know what the girls are going through and I was like, if I can help them make a minyan then why not go for it?”
Students expressed their appreciation for the minyan. “I want to thank all the people involved in making this possible,” said Yael Laks (SCW ‘22). “It really uplifted my Rosh Chodesh experience!”
When asked if there will be a Rosh Chodesh minyan again next month, members of BMC responded that it is “unlikely” since Rosh Chodesh Sivan — the next Jewish month — will take place during finals and recruiting men from the uptown campus to come during that time may prove challenging.
Stern College for Women (SCW) will be returning to its pre-COVID system of holding three minyanim on Shabbat every week by hosting volunteer male undergraduates at the Hilton Garden Inn in midtown and providing them with free Shabbat meals. The upcoming Shabbat minyan was organized by the Office of Torah and Spiritual Life, the Office of Student Life and TAC and is scheduled to take place in the Koch Auditorium with mincha, kabbalat Shabbat and maariv on Friday night and shacharit, mincha and maariv on Shabbat day. The minyanim are to take place every Shabbat for the rest of the semester and will consist of men both from the families of the Shabbat guests and students from the Wilf Campus.
“I think it's so exciting that Shabbat on the Beren Campus slowly feels like it's transitioning back to what it was, while also incorporating the Shabbat experience we've worked hard to create up until this point,” said TAC VP of Shabbat Eliana Feifel (SCW ‘21).
Since students returned to campus this fall, Kabbalat Shabbat took place in the Koch auditorium without a minyan, and Beren students were encouraged to attend Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El located on East 29th Street for minyan during the day.
“While we're grateful to the 29th Street Shul for consistently opening their doors to us, we recognize how important it is for the Beren community to enjoy a student-centered minyan of our own on campus,” said Associate Dean of Torah Studies and Spiritual Life Shoshana Schechter, who will be one of the guests on the Beren Campus this coming Shabbat and was very involved in the minyan-planning process. “We know the students have missed the opportunity to attend minyan on campus, and have been patiently waiting for the time that minyan can return.”
“It was incredible having a minyan this Monday morning for Rosh Chodesh. Somehow everyone felt closer together despite the distance. Even though we couldn’t sing, it was a semblance of normalcy. It should continue and I’m hopeful for this Shabbat,” shared Lizzie Janssen (SCW ‘22). “Though I love Adereth El with all of its history, it will be nice to be in our own beit midrash with Rabbi Bernstein running the show.”
The push among SCW students for minyan to return to Beren Campus reflects their attitude over recent years. The weekly Shabbat minyan currently being reinstituted was originally launched in the Fall 2016 semester by TAC and the Shabbat Enhancement Committee. Additionally, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, a weekly Tuesday shacharit minyan on the Beren Campus was established in February 2020.
“One of the major components to building community is to have opportunities for the community to daven together,” shared Beren Campus Rabbi Jacob Bernstein. “It’s something that has been wanted by students, by us, by faculty. A lot of people have wanted this to come back, we just needed to get the right point in which we were capable of doing so in a way that was safe.”
Rabbi Bernstein added, “it’s an invested value of the university, saying that this is something important to us, that the women’s campus should have a minyan each shabbat to collectively daven together as a tzibur would.”
YU has not held a minyan on the Beren Campus since the COVID-19 pandemic first affected the community in March 2020, though many students returned to campus in October 2020 and minyanim on the Wilf Campus resumed at that time.
The reestablishment of minyanim on the Beren Campus is made possible by the recent expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in NYS, which now includes everyone aged 16+. In addition to the minyanim, students on both campuses now have the opportunity to sign up to eat meals with a group of up to six people instead of the usual socially distanced seating that has been in place since the start of the Fall Semester. According to the Shabbat sign up email, if someone in the group tests positive for COVID-19, everyone who sat in that group will be required to quarantine. “This decision is part of our ongoing efforts to continue to evolve and evaluate how best to create a robust Shabbat experience that is both safe and enjoyable for our students, and complies with applicable legal guidelines,” Schechter said about the minyan. “We are looking forward to this next stage of returning to normal.
Photo Caption: Approximately 40 students attended Beren’s first Rosh Chodesh minyan since the beginning of the pandemic.
Photo Credit: Minyan Attendee