By Rachel Jacobi, News Editor
In recent months, a program initiated by the Yeshiva University undergraduate student councils, has been working to establish community-oriented co-ed Shabbatons on the Wilf campus. One of these Shabbatons will be held uptown this upcoming weekend, on December 13th and 14th. The YU Observer and the YU Commentator have collaborated on communal weekends in the past and have held newspaper Shabbatons on the Beren Campus, including one that was hosted last year. This year, however, for the first time, the Shabbaton will be moved to the Wilf Campus.
The planning of this Shabbaton was coordinated by student leaders, including Leib Wiener (President of the Yeshiva College Student Association), Ariella Etshalom (Vice President of Shabbat for the Torah Activities Council), Yoni Broth (President of the Student Organization of Yeshiva), and Bella Adler (President of the Torah Activities Council), working alongside Rabbi Josh Weisberg, Senior Director of the Office of Student Life. The planning process for this event began with Wiener, Etshalom, Broth, Adler, and Rabbi Weisberg this past summer. The model for the new Shabbatons on the Wilf Campus follows the one implemented more widely on the Beren Campus this year — small co-ed club-focused Shabbatons that are hosted on campus alongside the conventional programming. As such, the club meals and programming for the YU Observer/YU Commentator Shabbaton will take place in Shenk Shul, the same building that hosts the YU theater, while standard “men-only” meals will remain available in their traditional locations.
This co-ed club Shabbaton model follows last year’s co-ed Shabbaton that took place on the Wilf Campus, for the first time in decades. This Shabbaton resulted in disagreements and dissension amongst the YU undergraduate student body and faculty. Subsequent to the controversy caused by the first uptown Shabbaton, Rabbi Weisberg met with focus groups and rabbis last year and over the summer, to determine what type of co-ed Shabbatons students and rabbis would be satisfied with. The consensus of the focus groups was that students enjoy the co-ed Shabbatons, but would prefer them to be smaller and held more frequently, as opposed to large, one-time events. Wiener, Etshalom, Broth, and Adler worked within the parameters of that information to create the “club-Shabbaton model,” a model that would provide students with shared interests with the opportunity to truly get to know each other, a feature that is less accessible at the school-wide co-ed Shabbatons.
Etshalom described this model as one that ensures that all students have access to an environment they are comfortable with. “[The model will result in] creating a type of community that is open and conquerable to anyone that wants to be part of it,” said Etshalom. Wiener told the YU Observer, “YCDS runs a co-ed Shabbaton every year at Wilf, and we thought that inviting other clubs to our campus for Shabbos would be a great opportunity for interact[ion] outside of club events and allowing club members to meet new speakers and people.”
Broth remarked on the new programming, “YU is an amazing institution, and part of that comes with the fact that we have such a diverse student body. That means that creating any programming for every student on campus is very difficult. Therefore, we had hoped to find a way to expand our current Shabbat experience uptown for those students who do not appreciate the general caf-atmosphere with Roshei Yeshiva, Rebbeim, singing and Divrei Torah. So, we (Bella, Ariella, Leib, and I) decided to create a program with the help of OSL [Office of Student Life] and RIETS [Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary] faculty to expand our Shabbat community.”
“One of the best parts of YU is that our university is composed of many students who all feel connected to both the Yeshiva and University of our institution in different ways. There are many ideas of how to make student life meaningful for the diverse study body and this Shabbaton is one of those ways. I am so excited to see it come to fruition!” said Adler of the YU Observer/YU Commentator Shabbaton.
Journalist Laura Adkins, Opinion Editor at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Rabbi Jeremy Weider, a Yeshiva University Rosh Yeshiva, are set to be the guest speakers at the Shabbaton. Approximately 50 students were expected to attend, including members of the editorial boards of the YU Observer and YU Commentator, as well as writers from both papers. At this time, approximately 20 students have signed up. When signing up for the Shabbaton, students have been given the option to request housing placements.