In six days, I’ll be jumping back into my life as a college kid. I’ll be moving back to my neighborhood of the young and trendy; I’ll be sitting in lectures, debating in seminars. Lucky for me, I’ve already experienced the newness of freshman year, the search for good friends and the facade of comfort and confidence. But the mystery of a new year rattles everybody’s nerves, no matter how long they’ve ruled the downtown community. The first week of college is chaos. Until Shabbat.
For me, it’s community that calms the nerves, structures the chaos. Without a campus, it’s easy to get lost in the diversity. We need community to keep us grounded in our selves and our values. And at NYU, the largeness and vibrancy of the downtown Jewish community means there’s a place for every Jew, no matter her background or affiliation, once she gets past the intimidation of numbers.
Back and forth between Chabad and Hillel, that first Friday night brings newcomers — wide-eyed from the buzz of the crowd — from table to table, minyan to minyan, apartment to dorm room, looking for a place to settle their souls. Because for the first time, they get to see the community — individuals gathered from all over the village — all in one place. It’s the first time they get to see this secret community of people, scattered in classes and residence halls during the week, experiencing Shabbat together.
It’s that first Friday night, loud and energized and exhausting, that gives each student her first glimpse into the new year, to new friends, and to the great potential of her new community.
In six days, I start attending NYU. But in eight days, that first Friday night, my year begins.