12/19/2006

Letting others do the talking

There was a recent LookJED query about spiritually conducive Shabbat environments on American college campuses. Ultimately, I think that questions of this type are best answered individually, and I said so, but there are clearly certain campuses that have a better Shabbat atmospere than others.

It also just so happens that I'm in a pretty good position to talk about the University of Maryland, one of the most (if not THE most) spiritually conducive campus Shabbats around. Start with this: the Carlebach minyan on Friday nights at Maryland is simply one of the nicest davenings around. It regularly draws 250 students, and everyone sings. It's simply beautiful. Beyond that, there's a variety of options for meals, singing, onegs (including onegs with alcohol, for those inclined), and shiurim. The communal havdalah is beautiful as well, though it can get tiresome. Maryland student, even those who live near the campus, overwhelmingly opt to stay on campus for Shabbat. It's just a really, really nice Shabbat. And as most of my readership knows by now, I was the JLI Rabbi there for the past 2 years before making Aliyah.

The interesting thing is, I didn't write any of this on my LookJED response. I didn't really need to. I wrote in saying that I would be willing to discuss with students or teachers, or put them in touch with someone from another campus. Two other educators wrote in singing the praises of Maryland, including one who mentioned the role I used to fill. She overestimated my role in creating the Shabbat atmosphere, but that tends to happen when you're the Rabbi during 'the good years'. It's ok - the Rabbi gets blamed for everything during the 'bad years', too. In any event, I didn't write in singing the praises of Shabbat at UMD, but, it turns out, others did.

The only other respondent to the query was the director of another Hillel, singing the praises of his own community. It was an interesting study in contrasts. Nobody was writing in about how great his campus is on Shabbat (though one of the two mentioned his campus as one that has a lot of orthodox kids). It's funny how that works. Methinks he doth protest too much. I'm not sure I'd give his campus the high marks that he does, which is no chiddush. The people, however, have spoken.
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