By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Wilf Campus holds YUnite Shabbaton at Camp Romimu, First Since 2007

Approximately 250 students from Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus attended a shabbaton at Camp Romimu from Sept. 9 through 11. Titled YUnite, the shabbaton was intended to bring together students from all Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) programs in a relaxed environment to create an atmosphere of unity.

The shabbaton, the first YUnite Shabbaton since 2007, was planned and organized by UTS Program Manager Rabbi Hershel Hartz and UTS Dean Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, together with input from other Rebbeim and the YUnite Student Committee. Planning began in July.

Twelve rebbeim, mashgichim [spiritual advisors] and roshei yeshiva, as well as YU President Ari Berman, attended the Shabbaton, held on the campus of Camp Romimu, an overnight boys camp in Monticello, New York.

The theme of unity was central to the shabbaton, and was stressed on multiple occasions. Multiple shiurim [lectures] and panels discussed the theme, and other events and shiurim were conducted to promote interaction between students from different UTS programs.

“The aim for the shabbaton is to bring together the entire Yeshiva in achdus [unity] – that is why it is called YUnite!” Kalinsky told The Commentator shortly before the Shabbaton began.

Kalinsky added that the Shabbaton was also intended to allow students to spend time with rebbeim and their families, as well as to allow for “mini shiur” shabbatons, with students given the opportunity to spend exclusive time with their shiur rebbeim without extensive preparations on the part of rebbeim. 

The choice of Camp Romimu was intentional. “It is our experience,” Kalinsky told The Commentator, “that taking talmidim [students] off campus creates an atmosphere that is more conducive to creating relationships between each other and their rebbeim.”

Planning, which began in July, was primarily conducted by Kalinsky and Hartz. Other rebbeim and mashgichim shared their input as well, with much of the input coming from Rabbi Elisha Bacon, a mashgiach for the Irving I. Stone Beis Medrash Program (IBC) and Rabbi Jonathan Green, director of James Striar School of Jewish Studies (JSS).

The YUnite Student Committee was composed of students from all four UTS programs and also helped plan the event. 

The Rebbeim and Mashgichim who attended were Rabbi Joshua Blass, Rabbi Elisha Bacon, Rabbi Dan Cohen, Rabbi Jonathan Green, Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg, Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, Rabbi Azriel Kuschnir, Rabbi Menachem Penner, Rabbi Beny Rofeh and Rabbi Mayer Twersky.

Students were charged a $45 fee to attend, with registration ending on Sept. 2. Full sponsorships were available for all students attending IBC.

Internal university surveys of student’s perceptions of the shabbaton, which were shared with The Commentator, were overwhelmingly positive. Of the 65 students who responded to the survey, 64 were polled stating that the shabbaton met or exceeded their expectations, with 62 students saying they would return again the following year if given the opportunity. The remaining three students polled stated that they would be unable to attend due to graduating.

Rebbeim who attended were pleased with the event as well. “The YUnite Shabbaton featured some of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced in my years at Yeshiva,” said Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and the UTS programs. “It highlighted the depth of our Rabbinic staff, but, more importantly, the phenomenal students that make up the Men’s Undergraduate Program. Ashreinu!

Hartz, who planned the event together with Kalinsky, felt the shabbaton was a success, and hoped to apply some of the lessons learned on the Shabbaton. 

"It is not often that 15 Rabbeim and over 250 students join together for an off-campus retreat in the mountains, Hartz said.  “The experience was, in a lot of ways, unreal. The singing, the dancing, and the feelings of connectedness to one Yeshiva was palpable.  It is not a surprise then that out of the more than 65 responses we got about the Shabbaton, everyone said that they would do it again or suggest a friend to come.  

“We are working on learning the lessons from the Shabbaton and applying them to our weekly experience in Yeshiva.  In the meantime, I think we really laid the groundwork for a lot of good conversations and changes in experiences on campus to enable those feelings of unity to actualize themselves in Yeshiva.”

YU last ran YUnite Shabbatons in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

A Shabbaton for students at Beren campus was held on Sept. 17 at Camp Dora Golding in East Stroudsburg, PA.

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Photo Caption: Students at Camp Romimu

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University