New Shabbat on Campus Programming Increases Sense of Community

By: Ariella Etshalom  |  November 21, 2019

By Ariella Etshalom, TAC VP of Shabbat  

For many of us at Yeshiva University, being in college is about developing ourselves and learning how to live as independent people within a larger community. We achieve this through selecting our majors, the clubs we join, and our involvement in various movements on and off campus. This time in our lives is a time of learning and growing, while still being in a comfortable place to easily change our minds or figure out new, exciting passions to pursue. 

When creating our community, we want to surround ourselves with peers who share our interests and values, while keeping in mind that some variety is important and can widen our understanding of the world. The community we are building at the Beren Campus is built around this foundation; we want to create smaller communities of like-minded individuals within the larger community of the Beren Campus. This year, our focus for Shabbat on campus has been about appealing to different groups in smaller forums, while still maintaining the “homey” vibe of Shabbat on campus as a whole. 

Through bringing different speakers and creating exciting themes for each Shabbat, we have been able to reach different groups and build upon what was created over the last few years on campus. Additionally, we started a new initiative to specifically focus on different groups within Yeshiva University by creating “community meals.” Twice a month, Shabbat looks the same as it has looked over the last few years. We continue to have amazing minyan men who make sure we can daven in the Stern Beit Midrash and lead us in beautiful singing. Other than that, it is an all-women’s Shabbat with normal programming. The other two Shabbatot a month we invite a co-ed club to join us at the Beren Campus to create their own programming and meals. This allows for the community model: one shared davening as a kehilla, and multiple meals for smaller groups. There is always the “normal” bigger meal in Koch, but on these weekends we also have a small club meal with 20 men and 30 women. 

This model accomplishes three goals we set out to meet. Firstly, it allows for a more balanced ratio of men and women instead of the awkward, disproportionate ratio we sometimes have at coed events. Second, it allows for anyone who does not want to take part in a co-ed meal to have the women’s meal option (on the four larger co-ed Shabbatot of the year, there is always a women’s only meal). This creates a feeling of comfort; students at Beren should never need to run away from Shabbat on campus because of meals they don’t want to take part in. Lastly, it creates a feeling of community and a feeling of ownership over the meals. Club heads who lead their meals get to feel empowered and excited to be creating their own programming, sharing divrei Torah, and leading interesting discussions in a small enough setting that works for these programs. 

Creating a community is a wonderful thing to be involved in at this stage of our lives. This is the perfect time to explore what kind of community we want to take part in, since we are at a stage where we are not tied to any one thing and can allow our interests and passions to help lead us to the people we want in our community. Stay in for Shabbat and see where you fit in this community and what excites you. Take part in the meals and the Tefillah. Start by trying one program; you’ll like it so much you’ll want to stay for more. There is so much to be gained from any given Shabbat on campus. The Beren community is more than just going to classes; staying in for Shabbat helps you get a more rounded college experience through exploring a different side of what Stern has to offer.