Conservative Jewish group Ometz provides services, schmoozing, community

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By Georgia Slater
For the Mitzpeh
@georgiaslater13

Ometz board members. Photo courtesy of Maddie Schaeffer.
Ometz board members from left to right: Madelyn Schaeffer, Pamela Kekst, Rebecca Magazine, Ilana Bernstein, Miriam Silton. Photo courtesy of Madelyn Schaeffer.

 

With over 6,500 Jewish students on campus, according to the Maryland Hillel website, there is a plethora of ways to get involved within the Jewish community. Among these groups is Ometz, the Egalitarian community based in Conservative Judaism that provides students with opportunities to connect religiously, intellectually and culturally. Perhaps most importantly, Ometz is a place of comfort.

According to the Ometz mission statement on its website, there are three central aspects to the community: prayer, learning and social programming. The organization is committed to creating a prayer environment that is comfortable for both men and women, as well as complementing the prayer service with open forums and social activities.

“When it comes to the conservative Jewish community on campus, we feel like we give them an outlet,” said co-coordinator and sophomore public policy major Maddie Schaeffer. “With a mostly Orthodox community at Hillel, it’s important that we connect ties to the entire Jewish community while also building up our conservative one.”

Schaeffer said Ometz’s services “[gave] conservative students a chance to lead or participate,” but also catered to their individual mindsets, helping them “connect to Shabbat in their own way.”

Schaeffer got involved with Ometz her freshman year after attending a Friday night event that reminded her of her services back home. The number of people that attend Friday night services each week varies, she said, but watching the numbers grow and the Ometz community multiply encourages her.

For co-coordinator and senior linguistics major Rebecca Magazine, Ometz is a place she can pray comfortably and spend time with a diverse group of people on campus.

Ometz holds weekly Friday evening services at Hillel and provides different Shabbat activities such as Onegs and time to schmooze on Saturday mornings. The organization also includes the community with its Shabbat meal initiative that allows people hosting dinners to open up their tables to the rest of the community. Once a semester, the board coordinates an Ometz Shabbat Extravaganza dinner where about 100 students take meals in apartments around campus, which then culminates in a community Oneg, according to the Ometz website.

There are also lots of community events, explained Schaeffer. Ometz tries to reach out to  students on campus to bond and get to know prospective members.  For example, Ometz will be be hosting a chocolate seder April 13, and has done other events like Hamentashen baking, ice cream parties and meet and greets.

“I like being a part of Ometz because I like helping my community,” said Magazine. “My position on the board is as a coordination, like a president, so I work to make sure that our community’s members voices are heard, and that there is always events going on for our community members to participate in.”

The common theme around Ometz is the idea of comradery. Both Schaeffer and Magazine expressed their gratitude for finding a way to meet new people and practice their Judaism in a safe space.

“I think what’s really cool about Ometz is that we all bring different things to the community,” said Magazine. “Since the shared interest is not a major or a hobby, we all have very different things we bring to the table.”

 

CORRECTION: Magazine said Ometz allows her a space to “pray comfortably.” A previous version of this article stated this as “safely” instead.

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