The pandemic has not only changed most students’ lives it has also changed the way Jewish communities on campus operate. Generally, pre-Covid, Jewish organizations such as; OU-JLIC, Hillel, Chabad and JAM would be a safe haven and a place for bonding and belonging on the UCLA campus. However, due to social distancing regulations and campus closure, these Jewish organizations have been unable to operate on campus as they generally did.
Pre-Covid saw Shabbatons and Shabbat services at Hillel, as well as programming such as; “Wonderful Wednesday”, “Nooshe Joon”, “JewQ” , “Parsha and Pals” and Women’s rosh chodesh picnics and Chaburas coordinated by OU-JLIC and Hillel. These events were conducted on campus and at the Hillel on Hilgard, at OKT or Coffee Bean bonding and learning with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Kaplan and peers.
Events were also hosted by JAM UCLA, run by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hanfling, such as Shabbat dinner at JAM, bake socials, seminars, learning groups, and paint nights conducted at the JAM house on Landfair.
Chabad, under the esteemed Rabbi Dovid and Elisa Gurevich hosted warm Friday nights and Shabbat day meals at their home on Midvale Ave. Additionally, Chabad provided inspiring Parsha insights along with Pizza at Kerckhoff Patio as well as many other events correlating with the Jewish calendar filled with insights and warmth.
JLF, led by our Hillel staff, was also another learning opportunity to grow and bond with fellow students, on campus such as in the UCLA botanical garden.
These are examples of some of the organizations and their offerings on campus. But what are they doing now that they cannot host large events and need to practice social distancing?
“We’re taking a lot of precautions to make our events as safe as possible, while prioritizing in-person programming. We’re trying to account for basic needs, like kosher food in Westwood and Shabbat meals for students and also address the social, emotional and spiritual needs of students with a menu of learning opportunities, chessed programs, coffee dates and social programs,” animatedly states Rebetzin Kaplan. “We have been programming in the city, in the valley, in Westwood and on Zoom to make our opportunities as accessible as possible to the community of students that are now spread out across LA and CA.”
These efforts are bearing fruit and are very much appreciated by students. The programming done in small, socially distanced groups around town and Zoom sessions lift students’ spirits, creating and strengthening bonds.
One such program includes Shabbat to go, a Shabbat meal and a package filled with Shabbat essentials for students. There is also Workout Wednesdays done via Zoom to bolster students’ mental and physical healths. Additionally, JAM is offering free Hebrew lessons and Torah talks online and held a socially distant event on Sukkot. Chabad is continuing their legacy by conducting engaging events and classes, such as Parsha and Pizza via Facebook Live. JLF is continuing their learning online.
Social media, email, and messaging are used to convey word about these programmings. We are very grateful for the Jewish organizations who are adapting to try to meet student needs in a safe manner during these times.
For more information on organizations check out:
JAMUCLA, @Jewcla, and jlicatucla/oujlicucla on Facebook and Instagram
UCLA Hillel online and don’t forget to subscribe to the email list!
Contact jicatucla/oujlicucla via social media to sign up to pick up a Shabbat meal on Friday between 3 and 4 pm and an optional “Shabbag” to refill every Friday with Shabbat essentials.