Yalies flock to Yale for all sorts of excellent reasons. Some choose Yale because of its outstanding academics and phenomenal financial aid program, others because they love Yale’s residential colleges and campus life, and yet others because of the incredible extracurricular opportunities.
But Jewish Yalies have an additional reason to love Yale. We know that when day school students choose colleges, Jewish life is a top priority. These students wonder whether they can flourish and grow as observant Jews on the college’s campus, whether they will be part of a strong and vibrant community, and whether they can integrate their religious observance with a normal college life.
At Yale, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.
The center of Jewish life at Yale is the Slifka Center for Jewish Life, located right in the center of campus. The Slifka Center hosts a daily Orthodox minyan that meets for Shacharit and Mincha/Ma’ariv. Just upstairs from where our minyan is held, the Slifka Center has a beit midrash and a library. Students can always be found in these rooms, learning in pairs, small groups, or attending a wide array of shiurim at all levels (from Talmud, to Halakhah, to Yiddish language classes, and much more). Some of these groups involve Rabbi Alex Ozar and Lauren Steinberg, our Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC) couple, other Slifka clergy, or guest speakers. Others are independent or student-run.
On the lowest floor of the Slifka Center is the Lindenbaum Kosher Kitchen/Slifka Dining, a regular (or perhaps yummier than regular) Yale dining hall, which, conveniently, is Glatt Kosher. There is no special kosher meal plan or any extra cost for eating a kosher meal at Yale. This enables Yalies who keep kosher to eat meals not only with the observant community, but also with non-observant or non-Jewish friends and classmates. The Kosher Kitchen also allows for an aspect of Jewish life at Yale that we particularly prize: a socially integrated community. Slifka is so conveniently located and the food is so stellar that all types of Jews eat regular meals at Slifka. This fosters strong inter-denominational friendships that in other Jewish communities are so hard to come by. In our dining hall, all sit together, exchanging ideas and catching up on each other’s lives.
This friendly environment carries over to Shabbat as well. Shabbat is a very special part of the week at Slifka. Every week we welcome in Shabbat with Minchah, Kabbalat Shabbat, and Ma’ariv. After services, the entire community congregates in Slifka Dining for Shabbat dinner. If students ever seek more intimate Shabbat environments, Slifka’s rabbis each hold dinners at their house a few times each semester. After dinner there is often an oneg, occasionally a speaker, and always an hour or so of singing. On Shabbat mornings there are two different prayer options, followed by a kiddush, a d’var Torah, and lunch. In the afternoon, before a JLIC-led or student-led shiur, students take walks, read books, play games, or nap on Slifka’s many couches. Shabbat ends with Minchah, se’udah shlishit, and Ma’ariv.
The more technical aspects of Shabbat observance are also easily upheld at Yale. To accommodate observant students, the university removes the motion sensors in their bathrooms and provides them with mechanical keys to their dorms. The Slifka Center also works with the local community to maintain the Yale Eruv.
We find Yale to be a place where we can flourish as observant Jews and where Jewish life is exciting, intellectually stimulating, and spiritually fulfilling. We hope you will visit and see the Yale Jewish community as we do—warm, close-knit, and vibrant.