The Masorti on Campus Shabbaton
By Steve Gotlib, Class of 2018
Arizona State. Binghamton. Columbia. Dickinson. Hofstra. Johns Hopkins. Michigan. NYU. Stockton. Rutgers. Yale. What do all these schools and many more have in common? All had representatives present at the second annual Masorti on Campus Shabbaton at the University of Maryland-College Park, which I was lucky enough to have a place at this past Shabbos. This Shabbaton brought together traditional-egalitarian and Conservative Jewish students from campuses across the country for a vibrant weekend of leadership training. Going into it, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I had grown up in a Conservative Jewish community, but came to decide that it wasn’t for me as I grew older. Entering Rutgers this year as a Freshman, I had every intention to become active in the Orthodox community on campus and completely leave my past behind. Many things happened, and before I knew it, I found myself trying to become active within the Koach (Conservative) community at Rutgers and signed up for this Shabbaton. During the three hour car ride, I had no idea what to expect from the Shabbaton. Would I fit in? Would I have a good time?
Luckily the answer to both questions was a resounding yes. It took a while, but once the singing started for the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service, everything just fell into place. Everyone was singing, everyone was happy and everything felt right. It reminded me of my summer nights on high school summer programs (USY on Wheels and TJJ, NCSY’s The Jerusalem Journey) when my bus and I would be gathered around, arm in arm singing like there was no tomorrow. It was a Ruach (spirit) that I hadn’t experienced in a very long time and it did not end with that first night. Throughout the weekend, I experienced session after session with topics ranging from outreach to building meaningful communities and learning the tricks of social media from the creator of JSwipe. The lessons learned from those sessions will hopefully prove invaluable to me as I become more active in the Hillel community here at Rutgers.
Just before the end of Shabbos we all sat in a circle with the University of Maryland’s Orthodox community, and both denominations were singing together. It felt almost symbolic for me as both of the worlds I knew came together, singing the same songs for the same reason. It showed me that no matter what background we come from, or how observant we choose to be, all Jews believe in the same G-d and want the same thing. We all strive for happiness and find that happiness in our own ways, whether those ways are being Shomer Shabbos and Shomer Mitzvot, playing a guitar during prayer, or embracing egalitarianism. At the end of the day, we are and always will be a family. Now, more than ever, I am incredibly glad to be in a university with such a diverse Jewish community, where Judaism can be explored from all angles and students of all backgrounds can find where they truly belong, whether it’s with one community or all of them.