- What portion of Wesleyan undergrads are Jewish?
We estimate that Wesleyan is approximately 20–22% Jewish. There are roughly somewhere between 600 and 700 Jewish undergraduates.
- Is there specific programming for first-year students?
At Orientation, we have our traditional frosh Shabbat service and dinner. In addition, every year we have 8–10 Jewish sophomores who are JRPs (or Jewish Renaissance Fellows), who are available to help introduce first-years to Jewish student life on campus.
- Does the Jewish community have its own space? Is there a Hillel House?
One of the headquarters for Jewish student life at Wesleyan is the Bayit, a Jewish program house. It is home to 20+ students, and for many of them, a strong, Jewish community is important. In the Bayit, there is a kosher kitchen as well as a large common area where guest speakers, meetings, and social events take place. For more information, go to http://www.wesleyan.edu/reslife/housing/program/bayit.htm
- Is there kosher food? Is it any good?
Wesleyan runs a kosher dining station on the second floor of the Usdan Campus Center. The Shalom Salaam Kosher Eatery at Usdan Campus Center serves all you can eat kosher food. Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week, while school is in session. This eatery is under the rabbinic supervision of Rabbi David Teva. During Passover, this cafeteria becomes a kosher for Passover cafeteria.
Jewish Cooking/Shabbat Co-op
The Bayit, the Jewish program house, also has a kosher kitchen that is open to all students on campus.
On Friday afternoons, students cook meals to be served at Shabbat dinner (both meat and vegetarian options). There is a togetherness in cooking and it's lot of fun to cook for the enjoyment of the whole community. Students take turns volunteering for the Co-op. Don't worry if you are not Julia Child.
- What does a typical Shabbat at Wesleyan look like?
While there is no typical or standard Shabbat at Wesleyan, Shabbat at Wesleyan is very much student-led and coordinated. Every Friday afternoon at 1 p.m., students gather in the Bayit (the Jewish program house) and cook a scrumptious, gastronomic kosher feast for Shabbat. Services, which are always led by students, begin at 6 p.m. Shabbat services are always different. Sometimes they resemble a Carlebach (Hassidic) service, sometimes a summer camp service led with drums. There are usually between 40 and 70 people for Shabbat. Afterwards we gather and communally enjoy the home-cooked meal.
- Does Wesleyan have Jewish music or Jewish cultural programming on campus?
Absolutely! Pharoah’s Daughter, Art Spiegelman, Kirtan Rabbi, Gabi Meyer, and Simkha DuBowski (director of Trembling Before God) have all recently performed at Wesleyan. In addition, there are always new Jewish cultural groups starting on campus. In the past, we have had Israeli dancing, a Yiddish club, a Jewish a capella group, and a Klezmer group.
- I have heard that Wesleyan students are very involved in student activism. Are there Jewish activist groups on campus?
Many, but not all students choose to get involved in activism. Subjects range from on-campus issues to international events and political controversies. Some Jewish students are involved in the following: Kol Israel, WesShalom, The Third Path, and many more. For a full list of student groups, please see http://wsa.wesleyan.edu/student-group-resources/directory/
Here you will find activist groups as well as clubs centered around hobbies or common passions and many more.
We have frequently partnered with the American Jewish World Service.
And sponsored alternative Spring Break Trips to El-Salvador, Mexico.
We have also partnered with Muslim students at Wesleyan’s Jewish/Muslim Dialogue Travel Seminar to Istanbul and Jerusalem, which was recently featured in the documentary Heart to Heart.
- Are there traditional/orthodox Jews at Wesleyan University?
Every year we get a small number of Jewish students who come from Orthodox Jewish backgrounds.
- What kind of Jewish students come to Wesleyan?
All of them. Wesleyan gets many cultural Jews as well as Jews who come from day schools and Hebrew high schools.
Many of our students have been active in Nifty, Young Judea, USY, HaBonim, Camp Ramah, No’ar Hadash, HaShomer, and others. Every year, we have students who join us after spending a semester or year studying in Israel.
In addition, Wesleyan has a number of students who are exploring Judaism at their own pace and in their own way. Our community is welcoming and supportive of Jews of any and all backgrounds.
- What happens on Jewish holidays at Wesleyan?
All holidays are celebrated on campus with religious services as well as festive meals.
- Is there a Jewish studies program at Wesleyan?
Yes! For more information go to http://wesleyan.edu/jis/
- What does the Jewish social scene look like?
The Jewish community at Wesleyan is always sponsoring social events such as our Schmooze with the Jews ice cream parties, pizza parties, and our smores-by- the-fire get-togethers. Jewish students often organize their own programming and festivities.