Do I Attend my College Reunion?

Recently, I received a letter in the mail from the alumna association of my college for the 10 year reunion. It will be held over a summer weekend, which means that I will not be able to go to any events on Friday night. As for Saturday night, I would most likely be late to the class dinner because I couldn’t leave for the event until 9:30. One might think if I won’t be able to go to most of the events, why bother going?

Well, I disagree with that reasoning. I have many fond memories of college, some of my longest standing friendships are with people I met during that time of my life. Even though my Jewish observance didn’t grow until several years after college, I have great memories of the dinners and events I went to at Hillel and Chabad. I also have not seen some of my college friends in many years so it would be a wonderful opportunity to catch up and talk about how much our lives have changed.

Besides getting to see the college campus again and schmoozing with old and new friends, there is one other reason why I want to go. When I first started learning at Aish, I remember reading an article that stated that we are meant to fully embrace the pleasures of this world but with deliberation. This is why we say a blessing before everything we eat, and say the bircas hamazon after we eat. There are blessings we say when we see lightning, when we see a rainbow, when we see the ocean, etc. We are not supposed to run from the world and live in isolation, we are supposed to be part of the world. That includes high school and college reunions. If only my next high school reunion would fall on a Saturday night instead of a Friday night…

19 comments on “Do I Attend my College Reunion?

  1. If I still had friends from my college days. I’d be communicating with them with or without a formal reunion. As for the others, I hope they’re all doing well, but that would not make me invest in a trip to meet them.

  2. I’ll offer a psychological thought into the mix. To some extent, it depends on your mental makeup.

    My wife and I are ‘campers’. We like a little adventure. For us, going to a medical conference, sitting outside our room with a mountainaeering stove making food on Erev Shabbat is kind of fun. We don’t end up feeling our Shabbat is so impinged upon, as we feel we have an adventure and maybe touch some other Jewish heart along the way.

    We went to a graduation ceremony on Shabbat that way. It actually turned out problematic when the boarding house owner claimed she didn’t realize we had to stay so late on Sat. night (this was summertime). But even so, we had an adventure, we were a little bit of an example for other Jews in the group. We pride ourselves on being able to genuinely make do in odd places. It’s just who we are. Packing some food and the plata/hot plate for a stay in a strange locale is occasionally good for us.

    So, in the end, ask if you can really enjoy your Shabbat this way. If it seems like a bit of an adventure, and doable, great. If it will make Shabbat too challenging, and kill the enjoyment of Shabbat because of doubts and stress, maybe it isn’t the best idea.

  3. Maya, sounds like you want to go. Given that, you can make it happen in a kosher way. I haven’t gone to my college reunions because I can’t get around the eruv issue, so even if I could attend some of the events on Saturday, most are outside in tents, and I can’t think of a way nicely to say no if someone hands me a glass of water. I have gone to 2 high school reunions in past years, “big” ones, and I second the opinion of the commenter that its mostly everyone standing around schmoozing about what they’re currently up to. However, I do agree with Chana Leah that you CAN make a kiddush Hashem, and even give some food for thought to some thinking Jewish classmates. You have to weigh your relationship to the people you may see there and how uncomfortable the overall atmosphere may make you feel. Only you can judge that by your experiences, and you might not really know that until you go. Keep the focus on making a kiddush Hashem and do your best to keep the holy Shabbos in the best way you can!

  4. I myself went to two high school reunions over a Shabbos much for the same reasons Maya and the others listed. I must say, however, that the anticipation far outweighed any pleasure I took away. I was struck by how difficult it was to find common ground with people I lost touch with (that weren’t close friends). I had very little to say to them. Plus, guys I used to be friends with started touching me casually, one guy was even quite forward (by my standards, not his)! I found this very uncomfortable and had to do an embarrassing side step to stop it. This, combined with the cruder language that I was once accustomed to but now was jarring to my ears, and the loshon hara, reinforced ot me how much I had changed and how different I really was at that point. This made me feel I was not doing the right thing by being there.

    Plus, since one of the reunions was at a hotel, I made arrangements to have my own Shabbos meal in my room with a friend (dear hubby graciously stayed home with the kids to allow me to go) and then go down to the party after the meal, all k’halacha. This was a real downer, after all was said and done it wasn’t worth sacrificing the Shabbos ruach.

  5. Reunions are often held over weekends, and, it may well be possible to stay on campus or within walking distance and so participate to some extent.

    But then perhaps you will ask yourself, is this activity something that really ought to be part of my Shabbos?

  6. An interesting subject! I, myself, decided not to attend these reunions over the years, because I knew that the events were more than just a light gathering to stand around and schmooze. I had attended my 10-year reunion years ago, only to find a loud live rock band playing tunes from the 70’s/80’s, with old friends dancing together (leaving wives and husbands to stand on the sidelines). Conversations mostly focussed on how fat someone had become or how little hair someone else seemed to have now or how wealthy someone had become. It was sad. The only thing that left a lasting impression on me was a small poster put up in memory of those classmates who had died since graduation. This gave me pause to think and reflect, but little else had much meaning for me. Sure, I saw many old friends, but our lives had gone such opposite directions, that schmoozing was uncomfortable. Most of these old friends were Jews, and they looked at me like I had gone over the edge. My days of owning blue jeans and listening to secular music were gone before I attended this event, and it was probably clear to all there that this was the case. I felt like one of the few survivors on the S.S. Poseiden, knowing most of these Jews would be going down with the ship.

    Still, who knows what kind of an impression you could make? So long as you can deal with the crowd, you may just make a Kidush Hashem.
    To do so would make the whole trip worthwhile.

  7. And by kippah, I of course meant ‘wig.’

    …. Sorry, should have read the author’s name before commenting

    Hey you never know! when I was on my journey, I left YU after nearly 7 years on Amsterdam Avenue (my “Im Lavan Garti” period) and transferred to SUNY Stony Brook. The first night I got invited to a party. A real live party! I happened to be wearing a Tzahal shirt I brought back from EY and a small kippah. A woman struck up a conversation with me. She told me she put on t’filin each day (I kid you not) I recall a Berditchevesque moment thinking that Hashem was having a bit if fun at my expense and feeling “Ribono shel Oilam – at YU the guys don’t even wear t’filin – here in golus B”H even the girls wear t’filin – surreal to say the least!

  8. I’m not sure if the article was “misleading”, or simply required nuanced understanding in the reading.

    Of course there are many “pleasures” of this world which are forbidden to the Torah observant- I imagine anyone reading the article would understand it to be referring to permitted pleasures.

    As far as cutltural issues, it is up to the individual to choose the community most suitable to his/her philosophy regarding these matters. Communities vary considerably.

  9. “When I first started learning at Aish, I remember reading an article that stated that we are meant to fully embrace the pleasures of this world but with deliberation.”

    They misled you somewhat. There are endless pleasures in this world which (to one extent or another) religious Jews are expected to shun, either for religious or cultural reasons.

    Reunions are often held over weekends, and, it may well be possible to stay on campus or within walking distance and so participate to some extent.

    The take-home lesson from this, however, is to give careful thought about where you need to draw the line in your own life between your religious and secular activities, because there will always be a tension.

  10. Maya: Truthfully I don’t connect to all of the posts and comments that deal with longing for things left behind pre-BT.

    However, your post brings to mind the potential you will have to make a kiddush Hashem, and perhaps unknowingly to give direction to others in the “searching mode”. If you look outwardly frum, you will certainly be noticed in this crowd.

    If you are strong in the place you are in and don’t feel that seeing old friends in non-religious lifestyles would be an OVERWHELMING temptation, it’s probably OK. What does your Rav say?

  11. And by kippah, I of course meant ‘wig.’

    …. Sorry, should have read the author’s name before commenting.

  12. I am really liking the comments so far and it has given me more thought how I can make the most out of this alumni weekend.

    Regarding Jacob Heller’s comment

    “Whether intended or not, your presentation of “embracing the pleasures of this world” sounds like an end in itself and that the “deliberation” is a form of afterthought or disclaimer.”

    I can understand how you could come to this interpretation, although that was not my intent.

  13. Not sure why you even asked the question, especially on here. If you want to go, go. If your friends will be there and they are important to you, as long as no one is making you take off your kippah or engage in some kind of compromising activities that are against Torah, why is there a question to go or not?

  14. I went to my college reunion a few years ago with my husband and my little (at the time) son. It was a lot of fun. I went to the Friday day events and got to catch up with some friends. I even saw a fellow alum (from about 15 years before me) who was frum! He was in a Black Hat, that was a cool suprise. The college was really nice about providing us some kosher snacks.

    I spent Shabbos with Chabad rabbi and his family who I had spent a lot of time with during college. After Shabbos, we went to the Saturday night party. It was worth it. For my next reunion coming up next year, I am hoping to organize a Friday night dinner and maybe Shabbos morning service on campus. We’ll see….

  15. Well, we’ve been there before in my house and I would suggest that the best reason to go is simply to get pleasure and give others pleasure in seeing their successes and the good things they are doing. Occasionally giving others, Jew and non-Jew, a ‘yishar koah!’ is part of how we improve this world. I wouldn’t say one *must* go to a reunion to do this; but that would be my agenda if I were going. Certainly other Jews there may be interested in your successes and how Torah is part of that.

    If, like JDMDad, you can make Shabbat with a few people, even better!

  16. Regarding the comment

    “We are not supposed to run from the world and live in isolation, we are supposed to be part of the world. That includes high school and college reunions.”

    Yes, we are supposed to avoid monastic lifestyles, participate in the world and find enjoyment in certain aspects of Olam HaZeh. But this also begs the question of why this is so.

    We use and leverage the physical world to elevate us into greater heights within the spiritual one.

    Appreciating Hashem’s creation through nature’s wonders and food is a vehicle for this type of fulfillment.

    Whether intended or not, your presentation of “embracing the pleasures of this world” sounds like an end in itself and that the “deliberation” is a form of afterthought or disclaimer.

    How exactly does attending a college reunion elevate one’s place spiritually? I’m not a Rav (and perhaps you should consult one) but one always has to consider what their environment offers.

    For example, we need to work and support ourselves and our families but since we need to consider a workplace or occupation and calculate the potential spiritual pitfalls how much more so for situations that are not outright necessities for life.

  17. I agree with you. My wife and I are discussing going to my college reunion next year (Thurs-Sat). There are also a few other folks I know who became observant who are thinking of going. Instead of just tossing up our hands and giving up, we’re working on it together. I’m talking with Chabad in the area about home hospitality over Shabbos, another guy is checking on where kosher food can be found, etc. Might be a little more effort, but I definitely agree with you about schmoozing with old friends. Some people I haven’t seen since graduation plan to be there.

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