ORTHODOX LIFE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS

The UMass Orthodox community is a small, warm, great! tight-knit community where you can truly have an impact.  UMass is a great place to be Orthodox and to grow into your own within the setting of Massachusetts’ flagship state university.

You have the opportunity to create something special here.

“When we came to UMass Amherst as freshmen, we did not know what to expect.  We both came from Modern Orthodox high schools and met at Midreshet Lindenbaum.  Many of our friends were going to schools with tens if not hundreds of other people they knew, and we basically only knew each other.  Once we got here, it was easy to immediately feel at home. Everybody was so welcoming, and we quickly found our niche. Hillel is such an accepting and pluralistic environment, and KHH gives Orthodox students a place to be comfortable. Come visit us and experience it for yourself!”
-Shoshie and Kayla, Current Presidents of Kehilat Hillel Ha’azinu (Class of ‘20)

KEHILLAT HILLEL HA’AZINU, THE ORTHODOX COMMUNITY AT UMASS

Formally founded in 2002, Kehillat Hillel Ha’azinu (KHH) originally consisted of a small group of students from the five college community who were interested in enjoying Shabbat together.  They’d get together to daven and cook Shabbat meals, and spend time together as a community.

Today, KHH has gone from a couple of members to well over 50 and from hosting small home-cooked meals to hosting the whole Hillel community for Shabbat lunch!  The culture that is fostered by coordinating minyanim every Shabbat and celebrating all of the Chagim together is really something special with KHH. By organizing Torah learning opportunities during the week and mentorships for students of all backgrounds with OU-JLIC, KHH supports the continued growth of every individual and their experience of Jewish life while at UMass, each person sculpting for themselves their own Jewish life and ideals, as emerging adults in a supportive environment.

“As a freshman coming into college with no idea what my major would be, let alone how I would cope socially in a school of 20,000, I was relieved to find solace in our incredible Jewish community at Umass Amherst.  Here in Amherst, we are blessed to have a tight-knit community with everyone who is involved in Hillel and OU-JLIC. Everyone is comfortable with each other, we are open, accepting, and genuinely happy to be part of a family-like Jewish community.  It feels weird to write ‘community’ because we are really more like a family. Our OU-JLIC educators are part of this family. We are as comfortable with them as we are with each other. If something needs to change, we work together. If something is on your mind and you need to talk, our JLIC brethren are here for us.  This campus is fortunate enough to have educators that want more than a day-time relationship. They want to enlarge our Jewish community with love and invest all that they can.”
-Eitan, (Class of ‘21)

UMass is one of the major campuses considered by prospective students who are interested in a strong Orthodox presence.  Each semester students from around the United States visit UMass Amherst and KHH.

If you come and visit KHH at UMass, you’ll see the excitement KHH has for their community, the encouragement they provide each other and the warmth with which they welcome everyone.

Find out more at the KKH website, www.umasskkh.org or email the board at khhumass@gmail.com.

KOSHER DINING

There are several options for kosher food in the Amherst area, a wide selection at local supermarkets, Franklin Kosher Dining Commons, and for Shabbat and Chagim at UMass Hillel and at the OU-JLIC educator’s home.

The Kosher Dining Commons (KDC) is available through the UMass Dining Services (www.umassdining.com), which was rated best in the country, and is located in the Franklin Dining Commons, which is near Central, Orchard Hill Residential Areas.  Most students who are on the meal plan choose to live in one of these areas because it’s near KDC. KDC has its own (meat) kitchen staff that caters exclusively to the students on the Kosher meal plan.  The cook, Kerry, provides students with gourmet meals every day with several different options for all student’s dietary needs, and she even takes requests!

KDC is open Sunday – Thursday, from 11am to 7pm, and on Friday from 11am to 2:30pm.

Shabbat meals are provided by the UMass Hillel House and OU-JLIC, and are ALWAYS FREE to UMass students, including Friday night dinner, Shabbat lunch and Seudat Shlishit.  Friday night dinner is catered by KDC at Hillel, while the Shabbat lunch preparation is based on a rotation between KDC, several dedicated students in cooking crews and having Shabbat lunch at the OU-JLIC educator’s home.

Off campus, Stop & Shop, Big Y, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry a variety of kosher options year round and provide a very wide Pesach selection during the spring.  Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton is also certified Kosher. And amazing.

“We might not be the largest community, but we’re one of the most unique and well-fed!”
-Ilan, Class of ’21

The KDC and Hillel are both under the Vaad of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Herrell’s Ice Cream is under the supervision of Pioneer Valley Kosher.

SHABBAT

Shabbat at UMass is the highlight of Jewish life on campus.  There are frequently visiting scholars who help enhance our community.  There are Shabbat services at UMass every week. On Friday, a Pre-Shabbat Chill guides students out of the week and into Shabbat.  The Conservative (Mizmor), Orthodox (KHH) and Reform (Ruach) students sing Yedid Nefesh together before each group moves to their own locations for services.  Hillel provides a catered, free dinner. Following dinner, there’s usually an Oneg for all the students to enjoy, with singing, learning, eating, schmoozing, and unwinding from the week.  Student’s also head upstairs to the Hillel dorm to hang out. Shabbat morning davening for the Orthodox community begins at 10:00am, there is a short shiur on the parsha and a kiddush after davening.  On long Shabbat afternoons there is generally a chabura on hitbodedut (meditation), a halacha shiur/Q&A in preparation for an upcoming chag, or a pirkei avot discussion in the spring. Throughout Shabbat afternoon students hang out and play different games at Hillel, read, or take a nice walk.  A beautiful Seudat Shlishit (Third Meal of Shabbat) is a weekly occurrence at the OU-JLIC home, with 20+ students present on average. Socializing, great food, singing, and Torah provide for a positive conclusion to a sweet Shabbat experience and a meaningful, encouraging start to the week ahead.
While there is currently no eruv, OU-JLIC is in the process of creating one that will surround the entire UMass campus as well as Amherst College and Downtown Amherst.

Davening Times:
Shabbat Evening: 6pm Kabbalat Shabbat.
Shabbat Day: 10am Shacharit. 2:30pm Mincha.

For more information, please contact Rabbi Raffi Leicht at raffi@umassjlic.org.

Chagim (Holidays)

Chagim at UMass Amherst are remarkably memorable experiences.
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat, Purim, Pesach, Lag BaOmer and Shavuot.  Each chag is unique on campus. Minyanim and meals for Chagim are always taken care of for Jewish students at UMass.  It is during the chagim at the beginning, middle and end of the school year, that the growth of individual students and the community as a whole shines brightest.  You can feel the holiness and spirituality during Yom Kippur davening, the joy of Sukkot as students hop from Sukkah to Sukkah around Amherst late into both the night and Simchat Torah dancing.  The warmth of Chanukah is like a therapy for students around finals time. Simply sitting in front of their Chanukah candles, learning or playing music together. By the time Purim and Pesach arrive, the energy of the year and the spiritual growth of the community can be felt around the Purim Seudah (feast) and heard during the most amazing Pesach Seder that is at once both deeply intense and comfortable.  Lag Ba’Omer is just a very good chill.

UMASS HILLEL

UMass Hillel is the center of Jewish life on campus.  Its largest ongoing program is Shabbat Dinner with between 70-120 students on any given Friday night with three services taking place before the meal.  Social events, jobs, internships, fellowships, travel, Alternative Spring Break trips, ongoing Jewish educational opportunities, Birthright and Israel advocacy are all part of the vibrant UMass Hillel fabric of programming.  A strong value is placed on achdut (unity) and hachnasat orchim and staff and student leaders do everything they can to make sure Jewish students of all backgrounds and lifestyles are made to feel comfortable and welcome.

UMass Hillel staff provides student leaders the support and resources they need to create their own initiatives.  Challah for Hunger, Jewish Leaders in Business, Student Alliance for Israel, and Mishelanu are just a few of the many student-run groups at Hillel.  Whether it’s for social events, Israel, social justice and sustainability, or Jewish learning and identity, there is always room for student leadership to expand and for each student’s enthusiasm to grow.

HOUSING

Orthodox students live all over campus with the majority choosing the Central or Orchard Hill Residential Areas.  Both of these areas are near Franklin Dining Commons, where Kosher Dining is located. Both Central and Orchard Hill Residential Areas are also just minutes from the UMass Hillel House, which is in the southeast part of campus.  Another option many students choose is to live at the JLLC (the Jewish Living and Learning Community) located on the third floor of the Hillel House. Additionally, some students choose to live in off-campus apartments and houses and are also within walking distance to campus and Hillel.

Any student with questions concerning where to live should contact khhumass@gmail.com.