Between Columbia University and the affiliated Barnard College there are 8,700 undergraduates on campus. The combined Jewish population at Columbia and Barnard is 1,500-2,500 students. Yavneh, the Orthodox community at Columbia/Barnard, has 250-500 members. Most, but not all, of these students learned in an Orthodox gap year program for at least one year. First-year students typically live in dormitories while many upperclassmen live in university apartments with several bedrooms and kitchen facilities. Shabbat dormitory access varies by building, but reasonable accommodations are made in all cases.
The Shabbat life at Columbia/Barnard is vibrant. All davening takes place at the Kraft Center for Jewish Life, Columbia/Barnard’s Hillel building. On Friday night, the Orthodox minyan is attended by 180-220 students. Shabbat morning services are attended by 115-145 students followed by kiddush and often a shiur by the OU-JLIC couple. On a typical shabbat, 95-105 students eat Friday night dinner in Barnard’s kosher cafeteria or the Kraft Center, and 135-165 students participate in Shabbat dinners in students’ apartments. Students enjoy Shabbat lunch in the cafeteria (45-55 students) or in students’ apartments (180-220 students). Additionally, the OU-JLIC couple regularly hosts students for both Shabbat and yom tov meals. Yavneh members gather in the Kraft Center on Shabbat afternoon where they socialize, daven Mincha, and take part in a communal seudah shelishit, attended by 90-110 students. During seudah shelishit there is singing and a d’var Torah.
OU-JLIC’s Chaburah Project, attended by 90-110 students, creates a collaborative weekly learning community for Columbia/Barnard students. The classes are often facilitated by an OU-JLIC Torah Educator and a student. Past offerings include Un-modern Orthodoxy: An Exploration of the Movement’s Past and Present; Soul-Searching: Exploring Varieties of Yiddishe Neshamas; Jewish Family Life in the 21st Century; and Livin’ on a Prayer: Textual, Historical, and Philosophical Investigations. The OU-JLIC educators also organize social programming and get-togethers such as weekday suppers; end-of-finals dinner; and holiday events including hamentasch baking, Purim seudah, and Pesach sedarim.
Meet The Educators