Orthodox Life at Brandeis
Brandeis is home to approximately 250 Orthodox Jews, allowing for the perfect-sized community. With an active and intellectual beit midrash that has been active for over thirty years, Brandeis is one of the longest standing secular campus communities in the country.
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Hillel at Brandeis University provides students with a Jewish experience unlike any other. It serves as an umbrella organization for over twenty member group organizations, ranging from religious life organizations such as the Brandeis Orthodox Organization (see below) to community service groups, Israel-related organizations, pluralism and learning groups, and theatre, dance, and a cappella groups. Hillel at Brandeis and the organizations that it oversees allow students to define and contribute to one of the most dynamic and prominent Jewish communities present on a college campus.
While Hillel at Brandeis does not have its own building, Hillel’s myriad programs take place daily in various locations throughout campus. The Hillel student lounge, located upstairs in the Usdan student center, is the focal point of Hillel activities and the main location for Hillel’s social gatherings and formal student meetings. Religious services take place in the Berlin Chapel, Kotler Beit Midrash (Shapiro dorm), International Lounge (Usdan), and other locations on campus. Hillel staff offices are located in Usdan student center near the Hillel lounge.
Learn more on the Hillel Website
BOO: The Brandeis Orthodox Organization
BOO, the Brandeis Orthodox Organization, boasts a diverse membership of students from public schools as well as community and Orthodox Jewish high schools across the country and across the world.
In addition to daily minyanim, BOO also maintains an eruv surrounding the campus, upkeeps the Kotler Beit Midrash, and hosts a wide range of social and community service events. BOO Coffeehouses showcase the musical and comical talents of community members. Trips to Celtics and Bruins games and annual concerts supplement the usual Saturday night run to Ta’am China, the local kosher Chinese restaurant. Tzedek events include fundraising thousands of dollars for cancer research and participating in events with local Yachad members.
The Kotler Beit Midrash is the 24/7 home of Jewish learning where all are welcome to learn alone, with a partner, or as part of a group or class. The Beit Midrash is located in the bottom floor of the Shapiro Residence Hall. It contains thousands of Jewish texts, ranging from classic texts like Gemara, Mishnah, and Tanach to more recent books on topics ranging from Shabbat observance and kashrut to philosophy and ethics. Some JLI classes are taught there, as are lectures by visiting Rabbis, siyums by students completing study of various texts—one student finished the entire Gemara in 2005, and student-led classes including Daf Yomi, Mishneh Torah chaburah, and seasonal holiday-related chaburot. Programs such as Sunday Night Learning and P2P pluralistic learning community are also run in the Beit Midrash. The Beit Midrash is especially teeming on Shabbat, when it is sometimes hard to find a seat amidst all the learning and snacking.
The formal leadership of BOO consists of a nine-member board that oversees all learning and programming.
Find out more at the BOO website.
The Orthodox Minyan on Friday night features a lot of singing and attracts close to 200 students. Shabbat dinner brings together 200 students per week. More than 100 students attend services on Shabbat day, followed by a kiddush. The Beit Midrash is very popular on Shabbat.
An eruv encompasses all of campus.
There is a full-service kosher meal plan. Most of the kosher dining takes place at Sherman dining hall, which features all-you-can-eat cafeteria-style dining. There are some “Kosher to Go” options (e.g. sandwiches) available at the Kosher Convenience Store (in Sherman) and at Usdan Student Center. Supervision is provided by Rabbi Chaim Zirkind. Recently two kosher Hot Nosh vending machines were installed in one of the dorms, stocked with pizza, knishes, baked zitti, onion rings, etc. and provide a hot food option available 24 hours a day.
Find out more at the Dining Services website.