HarvardYard.jpgWe would be glad to help you get acquainted with the many great opportunities WashU has to offer and to assist you with your visit in St. Louis. We can answer any questions you may have about campus life, as well as Jewish life specifically. We can also arrange for you to meet current students, so you can hear about their wonderful experiences here.

Please contact us for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chabad WashU and the Jewish Student Community 

What is the Jewish student community like?

The Jewish community at WashU is an exciting place! It is multifaceted, inclusive, and constantly evolving to enhance the lives of students.

How large is the Jewish community on campus?

Washington University does not take a census of the religious backgrounds of its students, so we do not know with certainty. We estimate 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, let's just say that our largest events attract well over 500 students!

Do WashU have an observant Jewish community?

Dear Parents of Prospective Students,

We are excited that your student is considering joining the WashU Jewish community.

If your student is going to be visiting our community for Shabbos and participating in the Shabbat dinner, Shabbat lunch, and Shaleshudis, please consider making a donation to help cover some of the costs of the visit.

Chabad WashU

Yes! The observant population is modest in size, yet quite involved and it seems to grow a bit each year.

Chabad proudly offers programs for every member of the Jewish community, regardless of their level of observance. View our observant student memo for more about the opportunities that Chabad provides for observant students of all backgrounds.

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

There is a great deal of kosher food available on campus, and the food on campus is pretty 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. Students wishing to buy kosher food simply pay from their pre-purchased meal plan. Kosher prepackaged meals are available in almost every campus eatery. Hot kosher lunches and dinners are provided Sunday through Thursday in Bear’s Den in the South 40 residential area. Meals alternate between dairy and meat and there are always vegetarian options available. The kosher kitchen and station in Bear’s Den are certified by the Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis

The Chabad House acts as the de facto Kosher meal plan for all Shabbat and holiday meals for they are not available on campus.

Student Life at Chabad WashU

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.

What other programs does Chabad offer?

Many, many, many! Chabat offers social programs designed to build community, 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.

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.

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 a Hillel at WashU. Chabad and Hillel enjoy a relationship and co-sponsor some events. 

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.

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

Yes! Visit www.thenetworkstl.org.

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

Yes! You are encouraged to reach out to Rabbi Yossi and Goldie Abenson to learn more about finding a community of fellow graduate students through JGrads

Israel On Campus

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 advocacy.

Do you organize free trips to Israel with Birthright Israel?

Yes! Over 1000 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.

Religious Student Life at Chabad

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

Yes! Rabbi Hershey Novack can be reached at [email protected]

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

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

My family is Reform/Conservative/Traditionally 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 of care and respect that is true to our mission of community.

What is Shabbat like on campus?

Regardless of what time the sun sets on Friday, a giant Shabbat dinner is held in the Chabad House at 7 pm. About 170 students — often more — join Chabad each week for this dinner. Some attend every week, others once or twice per semester. This is the largest regular gathering of Jewish students in St. Louis.

Prior to the dinner, a spirited Kabbalat Shabbat, and evening services are held at 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.

Morning services are held weekly at the Chabad House. Chabad also hosts each Shabbat lunch and Seudah Shlishit every week, followed by singing to close out Shabbat.

Jewish Learning Opportunities 

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

A plethora of opportunities! A 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.

Does the university offer Jewish studies courses? 

Yes! The Department of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (JIMES) is devoted to the study of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle 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 cross cultural 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.

What is Sinai Scholars Society?

A group of students who participate in a series of eight discussion-based classes. Members of Sinai Scholars Society come from a wide variety of Jewish learning backgrounds. New courses begin every semester. 

What is COAST?

COAST 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. (This program is on hiatus during Covid.)

For Prospective Students and Families

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 from 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 WashU’s Undergraduate Academic 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, more positive, experience.

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. Owing to space concerns, only High School seniors who are prospective students should join for Shabbat.

For Parents

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, or auto repair shop in St. Louis. Can you make a recommendation?

We can try to help. Our team is always available for parents.

Is Chabad a part of the university?

Yes. Chabad is affiliated with WashU's Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life. 

Who pays for Chabad?

We generally do not charge students for participating in our programs. We depend on the generous support of our donors. We are recognized by the IRS as a 501 (c) 3 non-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.

(Updated: November 2022)