My experience at the Bayit began after I was asked this question: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?” This question has been in the “Bayit Interview Question Bank” for a few years, and apparently, my answer was good enough to make 19 strangers accept me as their 20th family member. The Bayit is Westwood’s only Jewish co-op and currently serves as home to 19 Jewish Bruins. This question was the beginning of a long-lasting friendship and commitment to a special house on Landfair. This would be the place where I would find my best friends, cry the hardest, laugh the loudest, and create the most meaningful memories. My experience here can be described as nothing less than life-changing: hundreds of deep heart-to-hearts, many hours of Netflix, shared meals, jam sessions, study sessions, and the beyachad environment are all aspects of the Bayit that have allowed me to survive and thrive during my time at UCLA.
Instead of only showing my own perspective, I decided to show the true uniqueness of the Bayit through the lenses of four very different Bayitniks. The things that go on at the Bayit are the products of true chaos, spontaneity, comfort and exploration of the Jewish identity. To expand on this idea, I spoke with Bayit RA Jon Sadik and resident Jackson Mercer regarding their definition of the “true Bayit experience.” While sitting with them both, I posed the question, “What is a uniquely Bayit experience?”
Mercer: Feb. 1 in the Bayit basement was a uniquely Bayit experience.
Sadik: Was that the dubstep party?
Mercer: No, that was the intimate Zusha concert. I think just the spontaneity is unique; both the planned and unplanned events that go on here are equally as fun, equally as rewarding. Coming home to a house full of people who are always fun, and always working, and being Jewish. That’s uniquely Bayit. I also enjoy seeing Bayitniks around campus, especially at Hillel on Shabbat. There’s something really nice about seeing the Bayitnik family together on Shabbat.
Sadik: My uniquely Bayit experience was waking up at 6:00 am to leave for my hospital shift, then walking by the dining room and seeing a tent in the dining room. You wouldn’t expect that to happen in any other co-op.
When I moved into the Bayit, I had never kept Shabbat, and keeping kosher was only something I knew about and had never necessarily practiced. However, living here allowed me to see the true beauty in Shabbat. There is no other time in my own life that I forbid myself from working, force myself to relax, and surround myself with friends and good vibes. Exposure to the true meaning of Shabbat and other Jewish practices, as well as Jewish practices from different cultures, has allowed me to transform my conception of my Jewish identity.
The Bayit’s emphasis on Judaism doesn’t just come from its rules or the sign with the Magen David on the front of the house. It also comes from within. Nikkie Mashian expanded on this topic when I asked her, “What is a lesson you have learned from living at the Bayit?”
Mashian: “It’s a combination of independence and dependence. Living here, you’re an independent person. You’re doing your own laundry. But being around so many people in the same house, you are able to rely on other people. If you need help with something, or if you left your laundry, there’s a really good connection between dependence and independence that you wouldn’t necessarily get living in an apartment or a studio; you don’t really get the social aspect as you would here. So I guess the lesson would be that while it’s important to become independent, there is also importance in learning to be dependent, and there’s something beautiful about that.” This lesson teaches everyone that the sense of family among all of us strengthens the Jewish identity of the Bayit and makes it truly unique to other co-op living environments.
Nights are never lonely at the Bayit. Often, they are filled with food, song, laughter, and friendship.
When asked about the most pleasant surprise about living at the Bayit, Yaacov Tarko answered, “Two things: For one, I’d say how incredible the people here are, like actually. And secondly, how often people bring free food for everyone.” Bayitniks come from an array of different religious, social, and cultural backgrounds, and each of them have something unique to contribute. From different foods prepared in the kitchen, to different songs on Shabbat, to the different languages you can hear throughout the house, the Bayit prides itself on diversity within the Jewish realm and we all benefit from being exposed to so many different types of people. The people I’ve met during my two years of living here can only be described as polar opposites of one another. Everyone, however different, is united by the Jewish identity. This is the true reason that the Bayit is so special. No other place takes college students at completely different stages of their lives, and unites them so strongly and with so much love.
If you can imagine yourself living at such an incredible place, please don’t hesitate to fill out the application at uclabayit.org for Summer/Fall 2016 and/or shoot us an email at [email protected].