Brandeis, a private research university, is the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college in the country. The school embraces Jewish values and there are no classes on all major Jewish holidays, except Chol Hamoed Sukkot and Simchat Torah. The Jewish Studies department offers Hebrew classes at every level, text-based Jewish studies classes in Talmud, midrash, aggadah, and the siddur, by top scholars in the field. With 1,500-2,500 Jewish students, close to half of Brandeis’ 3,600 undergraduate students are Jewish. There are 150-250 students from Modern or Centrist Orthodox day schools currently attending Brandeis; between 75-95 of these students studied in an Orthodox gap year program in Israel.
Brandeis is home to one of the longest established Orthodox campus communities in the United States with a fully active beit midrash on campus for over 30 years. Nearly a third of Hillel’s student board is Orthodox; and OU-JLIC, the Brandeis Orthodox Organization (BOO) and Hillel all work together. OU-JLIC organizes many social programs including frequent barbeques, monthly onegs, and creative holiday programs such as “Deep Fried Everything Chanukah Party” and “Fondue B’Shvat and Tree Planting. The OU-JLIC Torah Educators learn in chevrutah with students and teach dozens of shiurim on topics from parshah to Mishnah Torah, to students who range in their Judaic studies backgrounds. Brandeis has a robust night seder program with chaburot and the London Kollel – a student kollel whose participants commit to learning several hours a week in the beit midrash during night Seder, and receive a stipend at the end of the semester for doing so. BOO is a vibrant student group that organizes numerous social and learning programs for students from a wide range of backgrounds. Students also regularly enjoy Shabbat and weekday meals at the home of the OU-JLIC educators.
Shabbat at Brandeis is a wonderful and welcoming experience. Friday night, 135-165 students attend a lively Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv followed by a community-wide Shabbat dinner with Hillel and OU-JLIC. There are 70-90 students at Shabbat morning services and kiddush. Shabbat lunch is offered in the kosher dining hall and many students host meals in their dorms. On Shabbat afternoon students hang out in their dorms or at the OU-JLIC educators home, partake in shiurim, and enjoy seudah shelishit. Mincha and Maariv have 90-110 students and havdalah is definitely a highlight at Brandeis.
The close-knit but welcoming Brandeis Jewish community is in part created by the housing situation on campus. Brandeis offers single-gender floor assignments, if requested, and many students choose to live in the dorms until senior year. When students are in their senior year they can continue living in the dorms or decide, as some do, to live in nearby apartments or houses.
Meet The Educators