When the dining hall fare becomes dreary, Yale gentiles have a tendency to turn to the Jews. And when Slifka becomes boring with the same old crowd, even the Jews want to get their gefilte fish somewhere with a little more kick.
For a growing community of Yale undergraduates, the end of the week means a home-cooked Shabbat meal and the company of a surrogate — albeit diverse — family. Friday night, Brian Korchin ’05 and many other regulars gather at 3M, a year-old organization that provides students with the relaxed, cultural aspects of the Jewish Sabbath.
“It’s definitely something I look forward to at the end of each week to wind-down,” Korchin said. “It becomes very festive. We’ll break into song. It’s a celebration of life.”
Korchin and fellow undergraduate Nate Kempner ’05 founded 3M with two New Haven rabbinical students, Shua Rosenstein and Nachman Abend, after the four met at a gathering at the Chai Society, Yale’s oldest Jewish society, last year. The four began to hold Shabbat dinner together in apartment 3M in the Taft Apartments, and a tradition was born.
In contrast to the Chai Society, which requires membership for students to come to most meals, Korchin said that from the beginning 3M’s founders wanted it to be an open, welcoming community with a focus on undergraduates.
“We wanted to create a beautiful community, a home away from home for students to be able to experience Judaism on a very relaxed level,” co-founder Rosenstein said. “Everybody comes to bring whatever background they have. Its just an open-door policy.”
At the time it was founded, the four members had no idea how popular it would soon become. As the year passed, more friends came to Shabbat and word of mouth spread. 3M soon had as many as 30 people coming to dinner on Fridays, and many more students studying Torah and Jewish philosophy with Rosenstein and Abend during the day.
Many of those students involved in 3M are not Jewish, which Nachman says makes for lively conversation.
“I would have been intimidated to go without my friends since I’m not Jewish and don’t know the rules,” said Abigail Hawkins ’05, who has been to Shabbat at 3M a couple times. “But Nachman and Shua are the best, and even though I’m not Jewish I feel very welcome and have a great time. The food is delicious, and they just keep on bringing it out for hours.”
Not only do the participants vary in religion and race, Korchin said, but 3M also allows for diverse sectors of the Jewish community to interact. Korchin said 3M has allowed him to become friends with people with whom he would normally not have had the chance to interact.
“These guys are ultra-orthodox,” Korchin said of rabbinical students Rosenstein and Abend. “I’m a secular Jew and I would never have know them.”
And the home away from home will soon have a house all its own. When the founders realized that 3M had outgrown its apartment, the organization was quickly able to raise enough money to buy a property on Edgewood Avenue, near campus. Thanks to significant donations from a number of alumni and families of students involved in 3M, Shabbat dinners will soon be held in “Daniel’s Den,” a historic home currently under renovation christened after a donor. The “Den” will also house Yale’s chapter of Chabad, an organization that reaches out to Jewish communities worldwide.
Having the house will allow 3M to continue as a welcoming organization.
“We don’t want it to become an exclusive, elite society,” Korchin said.
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