In normal times, you would be celebrating your special milestone reunion – friends returning to Mother Yale from the four corners of the world for a weekend of celebration, learning, and connection. Instead we find ourselves isolated, in our own homes, and some of us directly affected by COVID-19. We are missing having you at Slifka Center for Shabbat Dinner, a Saturday morning class, or as a drop-in visitor during your celebratory weekend.
We are thinking of you and celebrating with you remotely! Just as we have shared with the Class of 2020, the impracticality of being together in person does not take anything away from the accomplishments they – or you – have achieved and postpones – rather than cancels – the attendant and appropriate celebrations. Please read on (or click here) to see how you can make Slifka Center part of your reunion milestone right now, even from afar.
One of the most remarkable features of Yale is the strength of the bonds between Yale and its alumni – which we know will ultimately prove stronger than even coronavirus. We look forward to being able to gather in celebration again, hopefully in the near future. Until then, we would like to make sure that you feel part and parcel of the ongoing story of Yale’s Jewish community.
Jewish life at Yale has changed a great deal since you were on campus – even if you are a member of the class of 2015! This year we celebrate Slifka Center’s 25th anniversary – looking back with gratitude at the generation of leaders who envisioned and created a home for Jewish life at the center of campus. We are building each day (including in virtual spaces) on the foundation they laid to make sure that Jewish life at Yale remains vibrant, dynamic, and groundbreaking.
Whether or not you were involved with an organized Jewish life while a student at Yale on High Street, Crown Street, in Bingham Hall, or on Wall Street, you are an important part of this community. Today at Yale there are around 700 Jewish undergraduates (about 12%), another 700 Jewish graduate students. Our dining hall has become a major hub of activity, serving students from all walks of life in an interfaith and multi-cultural environment hosted by the Jewish community. We offer classes, trips, service opportunities, Israel experiences, Shabbat and holiday services and programming, music and arts activities, and countless other opportunities for Jewish and non-Jewish students to encounter meaningful Jewish life. We are on the front lines of supporting students through emotional, social, and academic stresses that lead to unprecedented levels of mental health concerns among what has been called the loneliest generation ever. Even now as students are isolated – strewn about the world, they turn to Slifka Center as their community, support system, and lifeline. Our role during COVID-19 is merely an exaggerated version of the work we’ve been doing all along.
Every year Slifka Center engages over a thousand Yale students with kosher food, warm community, and the opportunity to enrich their time at Yale with the wisdom of Jewish tradition. Every day we contribute to the Jewish future by making the case to today’s students, during their formative college years, that Judaism and Jewish community will ennoble and deepen their lives. We also engage Jewish alumni as beneficiaries of our work (join our next Slifka Online Salon and listen past recordings!) and as partners in ensuring that Jewish life at Yale is built to last.
We are also mindful of being good stewards of the tradition of Slifka Center and leaving it better for next generation’s Yale students – just as our predecessors did. In that spirit, Slifka Center is launching a capital campaign, Slifka Center: Building Forward, to enable the building to serve the next twenty-five years of students just as well as it has.
Yale has – on a one-time basis – offered to recognize contributions to our 25th Anniversary “Building Forward” capital campaign that will fund the first major renovations to Slifka Center (especially the kitchen and dining hall – see the plans here) with “Yale Credit” for reunion gifts received by June 30, 2021. We hope that you will consider lending your support during this time to ensure that Jewish students at Yale will always have a home on campus to celebrate holidays and each other. Please be in touch with us if this is important to you, too.
As you know, friendship at Yale lasts for life. We are grateful for the ongoing partnership we share with you and members of your class and look forward to making those bonds stronger yet over the coming years – even as we cannot see one another at this year’s reunion.
As you have questions, would like to contribute, or are in New Haven when we are able to gather – please be in touch. Generations of Yale’s Jewish students – and the entire Jewish community, who will benefit from their leadership – will thank you.
Yours in friendship,
Uri Cohen, Slifka Center Executive Director
Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale