By: Seffi Jonas  | 

Students Return to Campus With Nearly No COVID-Restrictions

Yeshiva University undergraduates returned to campus with nearly no COVID-restrictions on Wednesday, Aug. 25, when the fall semester began. Student council leaders and the Office of Student Life (OSL) organized the back-to-school programming. 

Last semester, about 550 students lived on campus. Those students were required to wear masks and receive a negative PCR test twice weekly. For the 2021-22 academic year, students only needed proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test to return to campus, without further COVID testing. Unvaccinated students who were granted exceptions from the vaccine requirement have stricter guidelines. 

Superstorm Henri, which made landfall on Sunday, Aug. 22, delayed moving into the dorms for some of the student body. Despite the storm, orientation commenced that same Sunday evening.

OSL provided students with several opportunities to do chessed during the first week back on campus. Students packaged kosher Rosh Hashanah packages for American military service members. During the Welcome Back Bash and BBQ on Tuesday, Aug. 24, students were invited to swab their cheeks for The Gift of Life marrow registry. Students also cleaned Highbridge Park in Washington Heights. 

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, Beren Campus Rebbetzin Penina Bernstein joined a team of Beren Campus spiritual leaders — which includes Beren Campus Rabbi Jacob Bernstein, Associate Dean of Torah Studies and Spiritual Life Shoshana Shechter and Director of Spiritual Life Mrs. Rachel Ciment — in a panel discussing questions about getting into the spirit of Elul and starting school. Rebbetzin Bernstein also gave a shiur in the Stern College Beit Midrash with free Carlos and Gabby’s for students on Thursday, Aug. 26. 

“The Panel this past Wednesday night was an incredible way to start off the year and energize each of our students for all the untapped potential that is to come,” shared Torah Activities Council (TAC) President Suzanne Rabinovitch. “TAC looks forward to continuing to provide meaningful Torah, Shabbat, and chessed opportunities to our entire student body this year, who’ve waited all too long to come together again and take part in what makes our university so unique.”

Free ice cream was distributed to all students and faculty on both campuses on the first day of classes. This was cosponsored by OSL, Office of Housing and Residence Life, HR, the Career Center, the Counseling Center, and student council. 

Student council also provided additional back-to-school activities for students. Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY) sponsored free cholent for students on Wilf Campus following the first Thursday Night maariv of the school year and Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC) sponsored smoothies and coffee for Beren students on Thursday morning. On Sunday, Aug. 29, students from both campuses were invited to spend a Sunday touring New York City, with stops at Central Park and the zoo. 

“This week was so fun!” Dalia Levin (SCW ‘25) told The Commentator. “I am making so many new friends and the atmosphere here is so exciting! I hope every week is as great and full of activities and opportunities as this week has been.”

“The sentiment I’ve heard from the student body has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Yeshiva Student Union President Elazar Abrahams. “Everyone has such hakaras hatov to YU for working hard to bring things back to mostly normal. I didn’t fully realize how much I missed this place until I was back in the packed shiur room and it felt like my friends and I hadn't skipped a beat.”

Campus life commenced as the Delta variant — a more contagious strain of coronavirus — surges across New York City. On Tuesday, Aug. 24, Vice Provost for Student Affairs emailed students, faculty and staff about YU’s policy, signed by Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Selman Botman. 

“We understand that the new Delta variant is of concern for everyone, and we are working closely with our Medical Director and following guidance from New York State and New York City in order to navigate the uncertainty that it presents,” the email said.

While YU’s policy is not changing now, it told students they should listen to professors’ requests to wear masks in class, although they are not required to do so. 

It ended, “We will continue to evaluate this policy based on infection rates, as well as local and state guidance, and may revisit it as necessary.”

Shlomit Ebbin and Sruli Fruchter contributed to this story.

Photo Caption: Students at Beren Campus 

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University