Last Shabbat was the fourth annual Orthodox Union Collegiate Leadership Shabbaton in New York City, once again hosted at New York University’s Bronfman Center and at The Brownstone/David H. and Carol Feinberg Leadership Center, and featuring scholar-in-residence Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth.
Planning and running the Shabbaton was done jointly by different departments within OU NextGen, including the Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus–JLIC (in particularly NYU JLIC); OU Alumni; and Heart to Heart, with participating staff including Heart to Heart Founder and Director Hart Levine, Dov Winston, OU Alumni Director Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck, OU NextGen Director Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, and Hani Lowenstein; OU senior leadership officers Henry Orlinsky and Dr. Shimmy Tennenbaum also were involved in the planning.
This year there were 25 students from 10 campuses – the majority from New York City and the surrounding tristate-area, including Brooklyn College, Queens College, College of Staten Island, City College, Columbia University, Yale University, and Rutgers University as well as select fellows from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh), Washington University in St. Louis, and University of Texas at Austin. These latter three represented a group of religious student leaders on campuses with a small or no Jewish community (and lacking JLIC); OU NextGen has been investing in them through the Kahal Fellowship for emerging leaders supporting Orthodox Jewish communities on college campuses.
The Shabbaton featured three opportunities to hear from Rabbi Lord Sacks; spirited davening and singing; delicious meals; and ample time for the students to bond with each other. The sessions over Shabbat focused on supporting the students as individuals, problem solving and programming for their community, and brainstorming and planning national projects.
Follow-up focuses with the individuals on their campus and on national projects. “Hopefully with enough staff support and already-completed preliminary work, those projects will be able to take off and succeed,” explained Hart Levine. “Overall the feedback was spectacular from the students and follow-up is already underway.”