Cornell is home to 2,500-5,000 Jewish students, approximately a fifth of the total student population of 14,600, and students can earn a minor in Jewish studies. Between 75-150 students attended Modern or Centrist Orthodox day schools, and 35-45 attended an Orthodox gap year program in Israel.
Cornell Hillel cares deeply about supporting and involving Orthodox students in their community, and allocates resources to making sure the Orthodox community flourishes at Cornell. Many Orthodox students are involved in leadership roles and programming with Cornell Hillel, serving on the executive board, Hillel committees, and as participants of Hillel member groups. OU-JLIC at Cornell runs a variety of programming. The OU-JLIC Torah educators are part of the Hillel staff and run programs both at the Hillel and in their home. The educators host events for each graduating class: Freshman Pizza Making, Sophomore Pasta Bar, Junior Breakfast-for-Dinner, Senior Pizza Making, and Graduate Student Happy Hour in the Sukkah. Each month, OU-JLIC and Cornell Hillel plan a Women’s Rosh Chodesh Gathering. There is a weekly Advanced Talmud shiur, an Intro to Talmud Brunch & Learn, a Women’s chaburah entitled “Souper Shmooze” complete with homemade soup, and a monthly Shabbat afternoon “Gals and Goodies” shiur. OU-JLIC Programming also takes place during select chagim.
Shabbat is filled with a robust program of tefillot, meals and programming. There are between 35-45 students who attend the Orthodox Friday night and Shabbat morning services. Anywhere between 100-200 students eat Friday night dinner in the kosher dining hall; after dinner on Friday night, students will sing zemirot or socialize at the CJL. During Shabbat morning services there is a student drashah and following services there is a kiddush, shiur, and a communal lunch. Students who are interested in hosting their own Shabbat meals can receive funding from Hillel through the “Shabbat Across Cornell” initiative. The OU-JLIC educators invite students to their home for Shabbat and holiday meals as well as two Friday Night Onegs per semester. During Shabbat afternoon, many students go on a walk through the Ithaca gorges or socialize at the CJL. Seudah Shelishit is a time for everyone to gather together and sing among friends and community. Each semester, CJL and Cornell Hillel arrange for 2-3 scholars in residence to teach the community about new areas of Jewish thought. These guests spend Shabbat on campus, enjoying meals with students and teaching various shiurim on a variety of topics.
The university is accommodating to religious observance. Students are exempt from attending mandatory classes on Jewish holidays; if a student misses an exam due to a Jewish holiday they will be given an alternative test date. The keys to the dorms at Cornell are electronic, and upon request the university will provide a Shabbat key to the dorm’s side entrance. Orthodox students at Cornell live on campus, in apartments or at the Center for Jewish Living. The CJL is a hub for Jewish students on campus, boasting a residence hall connected to the kosher dining hall and a full schedule of weekly programming.
Meet The Educators