What Is This?
Wanna get away somewhere? Bored of the Jewish life at your college? Want to share your love for Jews and Judaism with other Jews?
Try running a Shabbaton somewhere which would appreciate the influx of enthusiastic young blood! And since you're a college students, why not go to another college!
Here's why it works: You are guitar players, philosophers, dancers, basketball players, pre-med students, econ majors, beer drinkers, 'The Office'-watchers, singers, and Facebook users. You are smart, funny, friendly, energetic, well-educated and cultured, embarking on the lofty and admirable journey of a college education. And you are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, welcoming, and passionate about your Judaism. Who could say 'no' to a group like that?
Each college's situation and populace is different, and thus has different needs and expected goals which you'll have to think about. But here are some general ones you might want to keep in mind when planning your excursion:
- Meet Jewish students who are different then yourself, giving all the opportunity to befriend and learn from each other.
- Reach fellow students in a non-intimidating, non-denominational, and not-institutionalized manner that is uniquely Jewish.
- Engage students in meaningful, content-filled, and inspiring Jewish experiences in environments often lacking just that.
- Impart Jewish education, religious acclimation, and cultural enrichment through shared Jewish experiences.
- Provide multiple avenues for students to connect to Judaism - be it through Jewish community, Jewish culture and rituals, Jewish knowledge or Israel - and all through peer-to-peer relationships. Inform them about Birthright, MASA, Hillel, Chabad and the plethora of Jewish organizations, resources, and activities which are available to them.
- Inspire Jewish students to get involved in Judaism, whether on their own, with their community, or through one of the aforementioned programs.
- Engender a sense of Jewish community on campus through lively and participatory programming.
- Develop and foster relationships and connections between Jewish students on colleges campuses across America.
See what's out there
- Small and Mighty - First find out what this is here, then look /search through the list here or here
- Hillel's college search - Here you can search for all colleges in specific regions or near an address. This site has a basic overview of Jewish life on campus - with undergrad and grad population, services offered, and staff contact info. If there's some sort of institution there, try and contact whoever is in charge - they'll probably have a lot of information and might offer to help you.
- Chabad's college search - See if there's a Chabad house nearby and if so, get in touch with the Chabad rabbi - ditto on the info and help.
- College Prowler has great overviews and insights into general life on campus.
- www.bestplaces.net - While not for a college itself, you can enter the city/state/zip and find out the general overview, as well as a rough religious breakdown of a specific location
- Be careful not to step on anyone else's toes - Chabad or Hillel might be worried that you're trying to 'steal' their customers. If that becomes a concern, make it clear that you have no intention of doing so, and merely want to help bring the students a meaningful Jewish experience. Maybe even offer to work with them, assuming the positives (contacts, resources, facilities) would outweigh the negatives (social detriments, institutional turn-offs, religious demands).
Ways to find people:
- Facebook: search in the college's network (or for the name of the college and) for the words "Jewish", "Jews", "Shabbat", "Israel", "Shalom", "Hillel", etc. - trust me, you never know what will turn up.
- MySpace: http://browseusers.myspace.com/Browse/Browse.aspx - go to the 'Advanced Search' tab and search with X miles of a specific zip code for religion=Jewish, age=18-25?
- Network: ask people from school/camp/home if they know Jews at that college or in that city. It's a small, small, small, small Jewish world.
- Contact the local Jewish Federation/Jewish community - ask someone there if they know of college students nearby.
- Speak to Hart (917 992 8090) - he has contacts at a lot of schools across America.
Once you find local students, get in touch with them - send them an email, give them a call. Tell them what you're doing, why you're coming, how excited you are, and see if they're interested. Ask for help and try to get them involved; having a point person on the ground will makes things easier for you, and it's also a great way to get them active and committed.
Most importantly, find a good week for you and your fellow adventurers. If you can find a weekend which is during or nearby to a Jewish holiday - even better, as holidays bring out the best in unconnected Jews! (For example, if it's before Pesach you can go for a chametz eating contest, or before Rosh Hashana parade around with shofars.) You also want to keep in mind the possibility for a follow-up Shabbaton, so the last weeks of schools aren't ideal.
Programs to Run
The challenge is running a Shabbaton which is both fun, inviting, and attractive, and containing meaningful and interesting Jewish content. A formidable challenge, but one for which many years of Jewish upbringing and education should have prepared you better than anyone else.
Don't underestimate the value of Jews just hanging out, playing Jewish geography, hearing each others life stories - that's some of the most meaningful stuff out there. In the end of the day, simple heart to heart conversations is really what its all about. And if you're a person filled with Jewish content, you'll bring the Jewish content without even trying.
Of course, you'll have to see what the place needs and wants but here are some possible ideas:
- Discussion on Jewish philosophy over some good old beer drinking
- BBQ (having a bonfire is much better, and more manly, than using a grill)
- Break out a guitar, drum, flute (chalil) or your voices, and have a jam session
- Coupling the Shabbaton with a Motzei Shabbat game of capture-the-flag-with-dart-guns. Or similar super awesome but not necessarily Jewish things that will get people talking and wanting to join just because these Shabbatons are super creative, cool, and fun [thanks Tal!]
One of the best things about Shabbat is that it is a built-in complete package of Jewish content, community, culture, and meaning. Unlike a random night, when you'll have to plan a whole program or activity, going somewhere for Shabbat already provides you with most of that.