By: Rivka Bennun  | 

About 180 Students Join First Coed Shabbaton on Beren Campus Since Pandemic Began

About 40 Wilf and 140 Beren students attended the coed Shabbaton on Beren Campus this past Shabbat of Oct. 22-23, the first since the start of COVID-19, according to Beren Shabbat Coordinator Adina Passy (SCW ‘21). The Shabbat included both an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic minyan.

Wilf students stayed in the Schottenstein Residence Hall, which is currently empty as it did not reopen for students on Beren Campus this semester due to lack of interest. The Ashkenazi minyan took place in Koch Auditorium, while the Sephardi minyan was held in the beit midrash. Beren and Wilf students mainly ate in Kushner Dining Hall and rooms 101-102, while some opted for an all-women meal in the Reference Library Lounge. 

Joe Bednarsh and Sara Asher, the associate and assistant deans of students respectively, were guests on the Shabbaton. The Shabbat was planned by the Beren Shabbat Team in partnership with the Office of Student Life and representatives from the Wilf and Beren student councils. 

“I'm proud that every member of YSU showed up and led zmiros [and] divrei torah, and cultivated a healthy social environment,” Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) President Elazar Abrahams (YC ‘22) told The Commentator. 

Students had the opportunity over Shabbat to spend time with Bednarsh and Asher, with an open Q&A session on Friday night and a shiur with Asher on Shabbat day. Additionally, rabbinic intern couple Mairav and Rabbi Josh Kaufman spent their first Shabbat of the year on campus, with Rabbi Kaufman giving the Shabbat morning derasha and Mairav giving a pre-mincha shiur

“I am so grateful for the warm welcome my kids and I received by everyone on campus. It was an incredible Shabbat filled with energy, excitement, camaraderie, and many wonderful opportunities to speak with and hear from students,” Bednarsh shared. “It’s so important for the students and the administrators to share these types of experiences and have opportunities to speak openly and honestly with each other.” 

“The shabbaton was an incredible experience where the YU students participated in shared meals, student-led minyanim, Torah talks, and socializing with friends,” Asher commented. “I found it immensely meaningful to be a part of the welcoming and warm shabbat atmosphere and to spend time talking with and enjoying the YU students.”

This Shabbat was also the first time in four years that there was a Sephardic minyan present on Beren Campus for Shabbat. According to Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC) President Talia Leitner (SCW ‘22), this was planned by the Sephardic Club in collaboration with the Office of Student Life (OSL), and the Sephardic Club hopes to have a Sephardi minyan once a month on Beren Campus for Shabbat. While there was a separate minyan for Ashkenazim on Friday night and Shabbat day, there was only a Sephardic minyan for mincha, which was attended by both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. 

SCWSC Vice President of Programming Nina Anina (SCW ‘23), who joined the Shabbaton as the representative from SCWSC, was also involved with planning the Sephardic minyan. “This past weekend was an amazing experience. We had over 10 men join us from Wilf for a Sephardi style minyan and boy did we feel right at home,” Anina told The Commentator. “There was singing, candy throwing, cheering, homemade brownies and everything you would expect to find in a true Sephardi minyan. [I’m] really happy with the way that everything worked out and the maturity/responsibility of all the men that came.”

“I very much enjoyed joining the Sephardic minyan for Mincha, being able to give a Dvar Torah to hundreds of students, and sitting at a table to share meals with students,” added Bednarsh. “I am eagerly awaiting my next invitation.”

Coed Shabbatons have traditionally been held on Beren Campus, as opposed to the Wilf Campus.

“Pre-COVID there were many club-themed Shabbats where men would be brought down to Beren,” Leitner shared. “However, this year we are moving away from club-themed Shabbatons so that everyone feels that they can stay in for Shabbat, regardless of whether they are affiliated with a given club … Because of this, we wanted to still give an opportunity to men to join us on Beren for Shabbat, so we had a Student Council themed Shabbat which would be inclusive of all interested in joining.”

"I liked that I got to spend time with my YU friends on Shabbat who I normally wouldn't get to hang out with,” Flora Shemtob (SCW ‘24) said. “Another thing I really liked was that they gave an option for an all girls meal, and I had a lot of fun."Associate Director of Student Life Marjorie Rasinovsky-Albert, who was involved in the general oversight of the Shabbat, commented, “Joint Shabbatot have been happening on campus for years and we are happy that we are able to bring them back this year.”

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University