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FAQs about Chabad and Jewish Campus Life (Beta)

FAQs about Chabad and Jewish Campus Life (Beta)

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What is the Jewish student community like?

The Jewish community at WashU is an exciting place! It is multifaceted, inclusive, and constantly changing to meet the needs of students.

How large is the Jewish community on campus?

Good question. Washington University does not take a census of the religious backgrounds of its students, so we do not know with certainty. We assume that the student body is between 20 to 25 percent Jewish. Thus the total undergraduate Jewish population at WashU is approximately 1600 individuals. In terms of involvement, Chabad’s largest events attract over 500 students!

Do you have an observant Jewish community?

For more on the opportunities that Chabad provides for observant students of all backgrounds, click here (PDF).

Yes! The observant population is modest in size, yet quite strong. It seems to grow a bit each and every year. We get a minyan roughly 3 days out of the week for Shacharit and every Friday night for Kabbalat Shabbat. There is fluidity between the observant and general Jewish community. Chabad proudly offers programs for every member of the Jewish community, regardless of their level of observance.

Is there a kosher meal plan on campus, is it popular and is it good?

There is a great deal of kosher food available on campus, and all of the food on campus is very good. In fact, in 2012, WashU won an award for having the best Kosher (and ethnic) dining program in the country!

Here is how it works: All undergraduate students purchase a point-for-dollar style meal plan, so students wishing to buy kosher food simply pay from that. Kosher prepackaged meals are available in almost every campus eatery during the day for breakfast and lunch. Sunday-Thursday night in Bear’s Den there is a hot kosher dinner provided. Kohn’s even delivers desserts. And while there is a separate kosher kitchen and station in Bear’s Den (certified by the Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis), WashU prides itself on providing an integrated dining experience, this way all students get to eat together.

Does WashU allow accepted students to defer to take a gap year in Israel?

Generally yes. Regular admissions and Early admissions students will have no problem with this. However, students who were accepted in off the waitlist have had some challenges with getting their deferral requests accepted. To avoid surprises, talk to your admissions officer.

Does WashU give academic credit for this gap year?

Generally no. WashU doesn’t grant credit for gap-year study. See the WashU bulletin for more specific information about credit received from college courses taken on a gap year. (Students entering the School of Engineering may have a different experience.)

Is there much anti-Israel sentiment on campus? Do friends of Israel frequently feel that they are in the minority?

No and no. In fact, there are a number of student clubs that focus on Israel.

We are coming to visit campus, can we see the Chabad House and get a tour?

Yes of course! We are more than happy to show you around and would love to share our community with you. We try to accommodate prospective students and parents when they visit. To ensure that we can be available for your visit, please contact us. We can also help prospective students find a current student to host them on campus for Shabbos.

Does Chabad have a student leadership board?

Yes! Chabad Student Association is the official Student Union recognized board of Chabad. About twenty students sit on the board and put on programming ranging from Sushi in the Sukkah to Schmoozing Chefs cooking club to the annual Chanukah Golden Dreidel competition. The Chabad Student Association also sponsors first night Rosh Hashana and Passover Seder celebrations. They serve as advocates for Jewish students and Jewish life. All who wish to participate are encouraged to run for a leadership position on the board.

I heard that a lot of Greek students participate in Chabad. I am not Greek, will I feel comfortable?

Yes of course! Chabad hosts all kinds of students from virtually every facet of the campus community. Greek students choose to participate in Chabad activities, as do students involved everything from A Capella to the campus co-op, and every group in between; you can find students representing each of these segments of the WashU population at Chabad. Everyone can find a social group they feel comfortable with here.

I consider myself politically and socially active in diverse communities both on campus and in the community. Will I find a place at Chabad?

Yes. We believe that Judaism ought to transcend socio-political divides and provides opportunities to build bridges among many diverse students and groups.

I don’t consider myself religious, does Chabad offer something for me? Is Chabad only for the Orthodox?

Chabad is a place for all Jewish students. Chabad seeks to provide a space where all students can feel welcome, including Jewishly observant and non-observant students; a space that transcends the binaries of denomination affiliations. One of the exciting things about Chabad is one can meet people from all walks of life.

My family is Reform/Conservative/Observant/Not observant/Just Jewish – will we feel comfortable at Chabad?

Yes! Chabad is a warm, inclusive environment. We are proud of the diverse backgrounds of the students who choose to participate. We have been successful at creating an environment that is true to our mission of community, caring and respect.

Do you organize free trips to Israel with Birthright Israel?

Yes! Over 900 students have chosen our Birthright Israel trip, making it one of the most popular campus-based trips in the nation! For more information and to register, visit the trip website.

Please describe Shabbat on campus.

Sure! Regardless of what time the sun sets on Friday, a giant Shabbat dinner is held in the Chabad House at 7 pm. About 100 students -- often more -- join Chabad each week for this dinner, some attend every week, others, once or twice per semester. In case you were wondering, this is the largest regular gathering of Jewish students in St. Louis held on a regular basis.

Prior to the dinner, a traditional Kabbalat Shabbat service is held at 6 pm in the Chabad house.

After dinner, students typically stick around to schmooze and play board games. Occasionally we invite a prominent faculty member or interesting guest to come speak to students informally after dinner. Then, students either go back to their dorms or hang out together in upperclassmen apartments.

Shabbat lunch works on a three-week rotation schedule with Hillel and the local Orthodox Bais Abraham Congregation. Some students choose to attend services at Bais Abe; on weeks when Chabad hosts lunch we have a student-led minyan in the Chabad house.

What other programs does Chabad offer?

Many, many, many! Social programs designed to build community, along with opportunities to remember the Holocaust, educational opportunities, and activities just for fun! We are especially proud of the Sinai Scholars Society, which meets for an eight-week long course each semester.

Is Chabad a part of the university?

Since its founding in 1853, Washington University is non-sectarian, apolitical and not religious. As such, neither Chabad nor any of the other Interfaith Campus Ministry groups are formally affiliated with the university. Instead, the university's student government, the Student Union, recognizes the student religious groups such as the (amazing) Chabad Student Association. Regardless, the university recognizes and appreciates the work that Chabad invests in the student community.

Does the university offer Jewish studies courses?

Yes! The Department of Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (JINELC) is devoted to the study of Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern languages and literatures; the history and cultures of the Near East; and the Jewish and Islamic civilizations, both individually and comparatively. Its integrated curriculum offers a focal point for crosscultural academic exchange that highlights the shared experiences and mutual influences of the two civilizations while paying close attention to the historical context of social change and cultural production.

Is there a Hillel at WashU? What is the relationship like between Chabad and Hillel? Are there any other Jewish groups on campus?

There is an active Hillel at WashU. We enjoy a warm relationship and co-sponsor events. A third organization, called JLE also offers programs and subsidized trips to Israel.

I am interested in Jewish learning. What do you offer?

A plethora of opportunities! A weekly Beit Midrash (study hall), the Sinai Scholars Society series of in-depth classes and discussions, Lunch and Learns on campus, a weekly Mishmar group at an off-campus student apartment, and individual classes.

So how much time do I have to dedicate to Chabad activities?

College students have very busy lives and this is completely understood. Some students come to Shabbat dinner and stay for a few minutes while others stay for a few hours.

All this is great, but how do I join?

Visit this link if you want to be added to our email list and find out about all the resources we have available for you.

What is Sinai Scholars Society?

A group of students who are apply to participate in a series of eight discussion-based classes. The program also includes a field trip, a Shabbat component, and a written paper.

What is COAST?

Where the ocean touches the land. COAST also stands for Chabad Ohr Atid Sunday Torah. This is the name of a collaborative program that Chabad runs together with Ohr Atid, in which students volunteer with area youth who happen to have special needs. If you volunteered with the Friendship Circle in High School then you will love to COAST. A couple of years ago, the Jewish Light newspaper awarded COAST as an "Unsung Hero" in the St. Louis community. Read the article here.

Do you offer any programming for students at SLU, Webster, and UMSL?

Yes!

Do you offer any programming for graduate students and young adults?

Yes!

Is there a rabbi on-site that I can speak to?

Yes!

If I have concerns about my son or daughter, may I contact you?

Yes. Our professional team is always available for parents.

My son or daughter needs a lawyer/therapist/life coach in St. Louis. Can you make a recommendation?

We can try. Our professional team is always available for parents.

Who pays for Chabad?

We generally do not charge students for participating in our programs. We depend entirely on the generous support of our donors. We are recognized by the IRS as a 501 (c) 3 non for profit, and are responsible for 100% of our fundraising program to ensure that adequate resources are available for students. Want to make a donation? Click here.

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