Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jewish Campus Atmosphere

I subscribe and contribute to a Jewish Educators' List, Lookjed.

This query was recently submitted to the list:

One of my students heading to college next year is seeking a campus whichhas a strong Orthodox Shabbat community. Some campuses have a strong Orthodox community during the week, but everyone goes home for Shabbat;other campuses have lots of people for Shabbat but not the most spiritually conducive atmosphere. What college would you recommend?

Rabbi Eitan Mayer
Menahel Chinuchi
Midreshet MoriahJerusalem

Adderabbi has already posted on this. I thought that I would give my response too.

This is what I answered:

Rabbi Mayer asked about a student who seeks a campus with a good Shabbat atmsophere. I love a good Shabbat davening and a warm Shabbat environment. And yet, I would like to critique the assumption of the question. If this student is dorming on campus, her whole life is there 24/7! She should then be searching for a community with a great Beit Midrash, an approachable Rabbi and Rebbetzin, good shiurim, and a week-long vibrant Jewish Community. This will affect the totality of her Jewish commitment in a way much stronger than Shabbat alone.

Too many Jews are "Shabbat Jews" who come "out the closet" just for Shabbat, but whose minds and wider lifestyle is elsewhere. To be a religiously vibrant and spiritually successful university student, one should be looking for Judaism in all spheres.

I would add one further point. The people who succeed on campus are frequently the givers, the activists, the organisers and machers. We should advise this student, who cares so deeply about Shabbat to get onto the committee that organises Shabbat atmosphere on the college campus. That way, she can be active in creating the appropriate atmosphere. She will grow significantly as a result.

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