By: Yosef Bluth  | 

Get Involved!

Yeshiva University has 142 clubs. When I arrived at YU, my intention was to join exactly none of them. I wasn’t very happy to be starting college and was even less thrilled to be doing it at YU. I decided that I would engage in only the bare minimum, avoiding just about everything that wasn’t necessary for my classes.

With this goal in mind, I would say my first year at YU was fairly successful. I focused on my work, didn’t meet too many new people, and only ended up joining one or two clubs. To my complete and utter shock, I didn’t enjoy my first year at YU very much.

Going into my second year, I decided to double down. If joining a couple of clubs hadn’t been enough to allow me to enjoy being at YU, then clearly the solution was to avoid getting involved in any new ones. 

I did a pretty good job. I focused on my classes, didn’t get involved in any more clubs, and only met the people that I shared classes with. Little did I know, some of those people would finally manage to put an end to my self-isolation.

During the study week before finals in the fall of 2022, the YU class of 2024 chat was even more active than usual. (I’m sure everyone on that chat knows just how crazy that is.) The chat was a complete mess. There were a handful of people joking around, several more trying to get them to stop, and a few people trying in vain to keep the chat focused on relevant announcements about Cram N’ Crunch and finals. As a final attempt to keep a semblance of order, one of the admins decided that enough was enough — he made the chat admin only and created a new chat for people who wanted to talk. It took me several days, but I eventually decided that my urge to meet people was more powerful than my commitment to being a hermit, and I joined the chat.

That was only the first step, but it started a snowball effect. I had gotten my first taste of getting involved in student life at YU, and I wanted more. The common denominator for the people on the chat was a goal of improving student life at YU, and the more I spent time with them the more I wanted to help. I can’t take total credit — without friends like Zakkai Notkin and Elishama Marmon I never would have been able to figure out how to join. But with them and my other friends supporting me, I was able to take that extra step.

That semester I kept my expectations reasonable. I started a club (the Fantasy Book Club, which is still one of my favorite projects I’ve done at YU), joined the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society (YCDS) as the stage manager, and tried out a bunch of different jobs for Sarachek. Put all of those together with my position as an NCSY advisor and I found myself with a full plate for the first time at YU. I found trying to juggle all of these different aspects of my life to be simultaneously challenging and incredibly rewarding. 

As the end of the year approached, I was faced with an opportunity that made me more nervous than ever before. Many student jobs require you to apply well in advance, and several of them were closing their applications shortly before finals. In the end, I decided to apply to be a tutor for the Writing Center (thanks to a friend who was already working there) and to be an orientation leader (along with several of my friends). The process of interviewing for them was honestly a bit terrifying; I’ve never been confident with interviews, and the fact that I really wanted to do these made the prospect of failure even more painful at a time when I was still adjusting to the idea of being involved at all. Thank G-d, I made a good enough impression that I got both jobs, putting me in a nice position moving into this year.

Orientation was a big test for my confidence. In many ways, I expected it to set the tone for how involved I would be in student life — if it went poorly, I planned to just back out. Instead, over the course of orientation, I realized just how much there was for me to do. I got involved with everything I could at orientation — from the different sessions to the trips to just talking with everyone, both old friends and people I was meeting for the first time. I’ve already written at length about my time at orientation, but suffice it to say that it was a big confidence boost for me. I ended up working more than 60 hours of Orientation and loved every second of it.

Towards the end of orientation, I ran into an old friend of mine, who was then an editor for the Observer. She asked me if I would be able to write a piece for the first issue of the Observer for this school year, and although I had already committed to writing for The Commentator, I decided that I could write for the Observer as well. Through that and a string of happy coincidences, I somehow ended up being a staff writer for both papers, something I found fairly amusing and that I think the editors in chief at both papers found rather annoying.

At the very beginning of the year, I decided that I wanted to do Torah Tours. I was given the chance to go to Phoenix for Chol Hamoed and Simchas Torah, which is something I enjoyed tremendously. The community there was awesome, and it was an incredible experience.

Moving into the year was tricky. I had to adjust to classes and figure out how much time I had in my schedule for extracurricular activities. I made the decision that since this would (hopefully) be my final year at YU, I wanted to get involved in everything I could manage. On top of everything else I was doing, I started peer tutoring for chemistry and working for MacsLive as a cameraman, became co-president of the Magic: The Gathering club (the only club I had joined in my first year), and somehow ended up on a few other club boards. Balancing everything was a challenge, but I found the rewards to be more than worth it. I got to try so many different things (some of which I was even good at!) and I had the chance to meet so many awesome people. I can confidently say that this was one of my favorite periods of my life.

Moving into winter break I realized I had no plans, and decided to settle for simply doing nothing. When I mentioned this to one of my friends, she told me that there was a program called MafTEACH in her hometown of Seattle that she thought I might enjoy, and despite the fact that I was applying way too late, I decided to apply anyway. I ended up being able to go, and so I was able to spend around half of winter break teaching middle and half-school students there, which I thought was an incredible experience that I was so happy I was able to do. At the end of winter break, I got to work at spring orientation, which was smaller than fall but still great.

This last semester has been incredible, but a bit overwhelming. In addition to everything else I was already doing, I worked at the Seforim Sale, Sarachek and YCDS. The Seforim Sale is frankly incredible, and to talk about how great it is would take its own article. Sarachek this year was fun in a different way; instead of being a newbie getting shown the ropes, I was a veteran who was able to focus more on what I knew I enjoyed and was skilled at. YCDS was spectacular — both the actors and the backstage crew really stepped up, and we managed to have a great time and put on a fantastic play.

All of these incredible things were traceable back to that one moment when I decided to get involved. If I had continued with my original plan of not getting involved, I would still be graduating from YU now, but I would be doing it without all of the experiences, memories and friends that I’ve made in the past two years. I know that I will be able to look back fondly on my time here in YU, something that seems insane to me given my thoughts on my first year here.

When I was asked to write a reflection on my time here, I wondered if I would be able to offer anything interesting. Yet, given time to reflect, I feel like there is. Get involved! Almost all of my happy memories in this college can be attributed to my decision to do that, and I urge you all to do the same. It may seem intimidating, it might seem impossible, but I can tell you from experience that it’s both achievable and rewarding. The only qualification you need is the drive to do it.

It’s frequently joked that everything at YU is done by the same five people. I find that joke so amusing because I’ve realized that it’s actually a group of around fifty people. While that’s still a small group, it has more than enough room for you and any of your friends who want to join you, and if you can’t get your friends to join you, there are plenty of incredible people for you to meet. You just need to take advantage of the opportunity!


Photo credit: Yeshiva University
Photo caption: I got involved with everything I could at orientation — from the different sessions to the trips to just talking with everyone, both old friends and people I was meeting for the first time.