There are many different Jewish prayer and social communities at Brandeis. Many operate under the umbrella organization Hillel. Hillel is an international organization providing a space for Jewish life on college campuses. At Brandeis, Hillel is overseen by a board of elected student leaders who work one-on-one with leaders of the Hillel clubs. Hillel’s offices are located in Usdan in the Hillel Lounge. Every Friday night, Hillel hosts a shabbat dinner for all Jewish students on campus, regardless of denomination, in Upper Sherman.At Brandeis, the Jewish faith community is made up of denominational groups. Each group conducts its own worship services based on their specific denominational traditions, however they frequently come together for social events and campus-wide holiday celebrations. There are also Jewish students at Brandeis who do not worship or practice within these groups and instead choose to observe their Judaism in a unique, individual manner. Although these groups are denominationally-specific, they are all open to students of different denominations or faiths attending their events. The following list includes the practicing Jewish denominational groups and their weekly worship information:
BOO serves the Orthodox Jewish community at Brandeis. BOO exists to “further the religious, social, and cultural needs of the Orthodox Jewish population at Brandeis University and is dedicated to the principles of Torah-Halakhic Judaism.” BOO meets for weekly shabbat, or sabbath, services every Friday night at sundown (kabbalat shabbat services in the International Lounge in Usdan Student Center. They additionally have services every Saturday morning (shacharit services) and Saturday evenings at sundown (havdalah services), also in International Lounge. BOO prayer services take place with a mechitza, or partition/dividing wall between men and women’s prayer sections. Many Orthodox students also pray several times daily in Berlin Chapel. BOO also exists as a social organization, hosting popular events such as ice skating and the BOO Cruise of Boston Harbor.
BUCO is the Conservative Jewish organization on the Brandeis campus. BUCO hosts weekly shabbat services in Berlin Chapel on Fridays at sundown (kabbalat shabbat) and Saturdays at 9 a.m. (shacharit) and sundown (havdalah). Every other week, they hold Saturday night (havdalah) services in conjunction with BaRuCh, the reform Jewish organization. BUCO services are traditional-egalitarian, meaning they follow traditional liturgy within their services but also allow equal participation of women and men. To learn more about BUCO, visit their website.
BaRuCh serves the reform Jewish community on the Brandeis campus. BaRuCh services are egalitarian and based on a reform service, meaning music is used, men and women pray and participate together, and there may be some service portions in English. BaRuCh holds weekly services on Friday nights at sundown (kabbalat shabbat) in Pearlman Lounge as well as on Saturday nights at sundown (havdalah). Every other week, they hold Saturday night (havdalah) services in conjunction with BUCO, the conservative organization. Once a month, BaRuCh holds Saturday morning (shacharit) services. BaRuCh holds social and learning events, including community service and educational trips and lectures. To learn more about BaRuCh, visit their website.
BRO is the community for reconstructionist Jews at Brandeis. BRO welcomes students who were raised in reconstructionist communities or who are interested in learning more about the movement. The reconstructionist movement is a United States-based movement of Judaism focused on Judaism not just as a religion but also as a culture and practice of community service (tikkun olam). BRO holds Friday night (kabbalat shabbat) services once every two weeks in changing locations, usually in Upper Sherman. BRO services are song-based and are conducted by student songleaders. For more information on BRO and the reconstructionist movement, visit the BRO website.
Kehilat Sha’ar is an “independent, egalitarian, and vibrant community.” Once every two weeks, Sha’ar hosts Friday night (kabbalat shabbat) services as well as a homemade dinner following the service. Locations for services and the dinner change but are always posted on the Sha’ar Facebook page. Sha’ar draws students from all different denominations and experiences. To learn more about Sha’ar, visit their Facebook page.
Shira Chadasha is “an Orthodox community/minyan that maximizes women involvement under halachic parameters,” meaning they look to maximize female participation under Jewish law. Shira Chadasha hosts services in different locations on a monthly basis. To learn more, visit the Shira Chadasha Facebook page.
The Chabad House at Brandeis is an independent organization run by Peretz and Chanie Chein. Located at 54 Turner Street in Waltham, Peretz and Chanie open their home each week to any student for a free, home-cooked, Friday night shabbat dinner. The Chabad House also holds educational programming throughout the year. For more information on Chabad House Brandeis, visit their website.
In addition to weekly services, the Jewish community at Brandeis also hosts services for the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These holidays are considered the most important in the Jewish calendar. Many Jews who do not worship on a weekly basis will attend services for the High Holy Days. Each year, Orthodox, Conservative/Egalitarian, Reform, and Reform Student-Led High Holy Day services are held in different locations.