The Value of Niche Groups

By: Yosef Bluth  |  May 15, 2024

By Yosef Bluth, Staff Writer

Yeshiva University is home to many different kinds of students. Ashkenazi and Sefardi, American and international, the list goes on and on. Our school has so many different groups of students that at times it can feel difficult to figure out exactly where one belongs. 

Many large groups at YU, such as the different morning programs on Wilf, form without conscious thought being put into their development. Other easy examples are the different schools – YC, Stern, or Syms – which are so ubiquitous that most people don’t give them any thought. These groups are so large, and they form so easily, that calling them a group seems strange. Yet, ask any Wilf student about their time at YU and many of them will tell you what morning program they are in before anything else.

The next level are the different majors and career groups. For example, being a computer science major is completely different from other YC majors. Some career groups, like pre-law or pre-med, are more important than the major one takes to get there. Yet, while these groups often define a person’s time at YU, they don’t all provide nearly as much support.

Even more niche are the groups within the larger student organizations, like the Sefardi Club – groups that one is either part of the group or not. Yeshiva alumni groups also fall into this category – only alumni can join. Others, such as the AMC or Broadway Clubs, are so large that it’s arguable whether they can even be called a group. Membership in these clubs doesn’t always give one an opportunity to meet people and form long-lasting friendships.

The final group is the niche clubs and extracurriculars. These, in my opinion, tend to get the least amount of appreciation; I believe they are the most important. Groups like these can range in size. Like the Seforim Sale staff, for example, with nearly one hundred members, down to the groups like YCDS with around twenty participants, down to some of the smallest clubs with only a handful of devoted members. These clubs cover a diverse range of interests, and give people the opportunity to bond over their shared enjoyment of hobbies such as reading, writing, musical instruments, card games and video games (Yes, these are all different clubs at YU). These groups tend to often be open to new members, as those already part of the group are always happy to share their interests with others. 

What makes these clubs so important is the sense of belonging. These smaller groups have been the ones that have allowed me to make friends, to make connections with people that I want to continue to build on, both during and after my time here at YU. These groups are the ones where friendships are truly allowed to develop, and where real bonds have the chance to form, where people have the opportunity to form friendships that last a lifetime. They allow people to build relationships with others they might not realize they share an interest with. One of my favorite examples of this is the Fantasy Book Club (disclaimer – I started it), where I have the opportunity to see friends that I made in completely different contexts, both inside and outside of the club, come together to discuss books and build relationships with each other. The people that are part of these clubs often wouldn’t know each other in the absence of these clubs, but thanks to them they have the chance to become good friends with others who share more similarities than outsiders may have thought.

The problem with these groups is that, by their very nature, they are small and niche. This can make it difficult to discover them initially – if you don’t know they exist, how would you even think to look? For some groups, it can be even harder to figure out how to join them once you do find them – the existence of a random WhatsApp group can be hard to find a way onto without having someone who can add you or give you a link. (For everything I dislike about CampusGroups, I believe this is the main area where it can be helpful to students, assuming that all the club events are posted there.) While the club fair is a great way for many of these groups to announce their existence to the greater YU student body, not everyone has the chance to go, both individual students and even some of the club heads themselves. This can lead to some of the clubs slipping through the cracks, and people that would have enjoyed joining these groups can miss out on them entirely. 

Throughout the past few months, I’ve written numerous articles about competitive chess here in the YU Observer. I’ve found these articles to be both fun to write and informative for people to read. Yet, to the average reader, an obvious question to ask would be “What makes this something important to YU as a whole? What is the point of having an article about it in a YU publication?” While I do believe there is value to students knowing interesting things going on in the world around them, I believe this case also has a much more important reason – it is my attempt to share with others an interest that I have, and one which several other students share. YU has a designated chess club, which holds awesome events for people that share the hobby, and I’ve seen numerous students playing chess online outside of the club. For me, this is a clear example of an interest I know many students share, and yet many don’t realize how many others also have the same interests.

For many students, these articles are simply a curiosity – an explanation of current events in a sport that you don’t follow, play, or care about. However, for a few of you, it is a declaration that there is a group of students at YU who simply enjoy the same thing you do, and that this group is something that you have the ability to join if you are interested.