By Jacob M. Stern
It’s an average Monday. I run from the 6 train, which obviously ran late today, and I sprint into 245 / “The Stern Building” / Stanton Hall. (Honestly, after all this time I still have no idea what to call it.) Obviously, two of the elevators are not working, because they never are, so when the one elevator opens, two dozen or so women are crammed inside, coming up from the caf. I am exaggerating here, but barely. Now the door opens, and all of these twenty odd-what students cringe as they see me. I turn towards the stairs and get a half a dozen “sorry!”s shouted in my direction from the elevator.
There was probably room for a couple more people in the elevator. So why did I not enter? Well I, like most of my friends, do not like being in very tight quarters, and rubbing up against members of the opposite sex. That’s right, I’m a guy, and I am constantly at Stern.
I consider myself a pretty classic “YU-right” kinda guy. I went to a hesder yeshiva, was in a YP shiur for two years, now in one of the YP chaburas, and most importantly, I learn night seder NOT on the yeshiva masechta. So what is a “nice Jewish boy” like myself constantly doing at the Beren Campus? It is mainly due to the graduate program in mathematics being located in 245. Like some other majors, math all but requires a few graduate courses. Between my grad courses, a TA-ing job and meeting with my thesis advisor, there have been times where I’ve been on the Beren Campus as many as three times a week.
I am not writing this article to “justify” myself. It is not to explain to the women of the Beren Campus why this random guy is always there. And it is certainly not to have written proof of valid reason to constantly be downtown to cite on my shidduch resume. I am writing because there are some things I have noticed around the Beren Campus. As a fish out of water, I feel that I can provide a unique perspective. Or maybe I can just mansplain the problems away, and then they will all be gone! I am sure all the women at Beren will appreciate that.
Going back to the elevators, they are always broken; I know this is a running joke, but it is actually really annoying. In Furst Hall, if the elevators are down, it is not a big deal — two flights, for most people, is no big deal, but the Stern and Syms buildings at Beren are about a dozen floors. It is not fun to run from across the city to make it to class, only for the elevators to be down and to run up ten flights of stairs.
My favorite experience is definitely getting to be the star of a fashion show. You see, many of the lights on Beren are on motion sensors, including the library. Yes. In a room which people tend to sit still for hours on end, motion sensors turn the lights off after ten minutes of no movement. That is not the best part, though. When walking to the back of the library where the study alcoves are, there is a pseudo-hallway made of bookshelves, and as one walks down this “catwalk,” as I like to call it, lights go on, following her as she walks down. Some students are pretty good at ignoring it, but light and motion draws the eye, so anytime someone walks in, a few glances go up. Heads normally go right back down as people get back to their studies. But when a guy walks in, everyone is thrown off guard, and a few seconds of staring ensue.
“And now, this random YC boy is showing off the latest in YP fashion,” says the voice in my, and presumably everyone else’s, head, “His long techelis blow in the wind as he shows off the latest in Kirkland button-downs.” You may think I am exaggerating, but guys, try it once. If you ever have on an outfit that you want to be seen in, hop on the shuttle downtown and take a stroll in to the library. Heck, I’d even announce for you if you want.
So, being at Beren constantly is not all that you might think it is. No, I do not go around handing out my resume, and no matter what you might call it (#shidduchshuttle), no one even talks on the shuttle, let alone meets that “special someone.”
There are, however, some pretty cool things that go on downtown. First of all, downtown itself — some people love midtown Manhattan. I happen to prefer a country farm to any urban area, so I am pretty impartial about location. I have also gotten to know the Campus Rabbi and Av Bayit, who are both great people, and having one Campus Rabbi, as opposed to over 30 Roshei Yeshiva, helps contribute to the sense of community that permeates the environment at Beren.
One thing that Beren does objectively better than uptown is ID stickers. For those who are unfamiliar with the Wilf Campus policy, to get a sticker uptown, one has to go to the security office, which is located in its own building. Because of this hassle, most students do not get their new semester stickers so quickly. Most of the time, a security guard will give them trouble, or the librarian will refuse to give them a study room, until they get a new sticker. Downtown, however, they do the craziest thing: When you walk into any main building at the beginning of the new semester, the security guard there will get you a new sticker. Crazy! The last three semesters, I have gotten my stickers at the Beren Campus, not because I planned to, but because before I had found the time to head to Wilf security, I got one just going to class at Beren.
Another upside of the Beren Campus is that when you walk in the front door of 245, large posters are always up advertising upcoming events, announcing new programming, or containing messages themed for the season. The Divrei Torah that appear in the elevators from time to time also foster the feeling of a Jewish community. Also, some of the women are really nice and welcoming. More than once, someone I barely knew would offer to sit with me in the caf, so I would not have to sit alone. It was a really nice gesture, and since this has happened a few times, I have tried to reciprocate when women I know come to Wilf.
So next time you see “The Bachur of Beren,” know that he also walks up the stairs when the elevators are down, eats the same caf food, and goes to class in the same room as you. Turns out he is not too different from you after all.