Students

Jewish Life at Duke works to support all Jewish students at Duke.

Our goal is to provide you with opportunities to connect, get involved, explore your roots and enrich your experience at Duke. No matter how you want to engage, we've got you covered.

Shabbat and Holidays

Jewish Life at Duke celebrates Shabbat each Friday night that classes are in session and welcomes all members of the Duke community to join us!

Rabbi Elana and student leaders lead the community in candle lighting and a non-denominational, pluralistic Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:00pm. After we share our Good Thing of the Week (a Duke favorite tradition!), we join together for a free, kosher communal Shabbat dinner around 7:00pm. Join us at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life for any or all of the evening. 

Shabbat dinner is always free for students thanks to the support of our donors! RSVP each week by texting "Shabbat" to 984-333-5603 by Friday at noon, or email jewishlife@duke.edu.

Each year, the Duke community celebrates the High Holidays with Jewish Life at Duke. For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, both Reform and Conservative-Style services are offered at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life.

We also offer Tashlich at Duke Gardens. Additionally, we offer free holiday meals for students including Rosh Hashanah dinner, pre-fast dinner, and Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast at the Freeman Center. 

Registration for meals is required by September 16, 2022, but all holiday meals are free for students.

High Holiday Schedule 2022

Rosh Hashanah

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

6:30pm Community Service

7:30pm Erev Rosh Hashanah Holiday Dinner

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26

9:30am Conservative Service

10:00am Reform Service

10:45am Communal Torah Reading

12:00pm Musaf

Kiddush Lunch, following services

5:30pm Alternative Option: Reflection Walk in Duke Gardens with Rebecca Ezersky (meet at Duke Gardens South Lawn)

6:15pm Tashlikh Service at Duke Gardens – meet at Big Pond

6:45pm Rosh Hashanah Holiday Dinner – Duke Gardens

7:45pm Conservative Service & Kiddush – Duke Gardens

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

9:30am Conservative Service

Kiddush Lunch, following services


Yom Kippur

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4

5:30pm Pre-Fast Dinner

6:30pm Community Kol Nidre Services

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5

9:30am Conservative Service

10:00am Reform Service

10:45am Communal Torah Reading

11:30am Yizkor Service

Freeman Center Hang Out Space – All Day

2:30pm Alternative Option: Mindful Movement and Meditation with Doron Gertzovski

4:30pm Alternative Option: Musical Reflection with Sarah Jacobs

5:15pm Mincha

6:15pm Community Neilah

7:32pm Communal Shofar Blowing and Break the Fast Meal


Duke University Religious Observance Policy

Students are permitted to be absent from class to observe a religious holiday.

For religious observance policy details, visit: trinity.duke.edu/undergraduate/academic-policies/religious-holidays

Students are encouraged to visit the Freeman Center patio during Sukkot in order to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah! The lulav and etrog will be in the Sukkah for students to shake, with the blessings printed up and handy. 

The Jewish Student Union and Jewish Life at Duke often provide fun, social programming for the community, such as decorating and meals in the sukkah, throughout the holiday. 

Sukkot programming is made possible through the generosity of the Freeman Family Program Fund. All meals or programs are free and open to all.

Students enjoy a variety of Hanukkah programs and opportunities to perform the mitzvah of lighting the candles. The Jewish Student Union also plans an annual Latkapalooza celebration featuring food, music, fun, and games!

JLD holds traditional, communal Seders on the first and second nights of Passover.

Host-Your-Own-Seder Program: Students who wish to host their own seder for friends or a student organization are encouraged to do so. Rabbi Elana Friedman provides training for the seder hosts and a kit is supplied with all of the essential seder goodies. Themed-seders in past years have included: Interfaith Seder, Seder Goes to K-Ville, Poetry Seder, Smash or Passover, West Campus Seder, Curling Team Seder, Queer Seder, Duke Men's Rowing Seder, Seder Night Live (SNL), Grad Student Seder, Jewish Law Students Association Seder, and more. More than 650 individual students attend these Seders annually with the generous support of the Freeman Family Program Fund.

The Freeman Center is home to an annual matzah brie meal during the week, and Kosher for Passover food is supplied at the Freeman Center Cafe and around campus eateries all eight days. 

Upcoming Events

Programs and Initiatives

Jewish First-Year Advisory Mentorship (JFAM) welcomes all new Jewish students into the JLD family by pairing them with individual upperclassmen - their “JFAMilies” - who provide insider insights about campus life and Jewish life, along with guidance, friendship, and support. Through various JFAM social gatherings - our traditional Welcome Back BBQ, JFAM Shabbat, and an Ice Cream Social, to name just a few - new students connect with each other and begin to develop their own niche on campus.

If you would like to be a part of a “JFAMily” either as a new student, or an upperclassmen, please email Jewish Life at Duke. JFAM is made possible through the generosity of the Freeman Family Program Fund. 

JLD's B'nai Mitzvah program was the brainchild of a group of Jewish Student Union (JSU) members back in 2012, when the then 13-year-old Freeman Center was celebrating its own B'nai Mitzvah.  What better way to mark the milestone than by offering the same opportunity to students who missed out on this meaningful rite of passage?

Under the guidance of Rabbi Elana Friedman, B'nai Mitzvah students spend several months learning their Torah portion and completing a mitzvah project.  Parents, grandparents, and siblings come from all over to witness the ceremony at the Freeman Center, where they are joined by a friends from across campus. That evening, after the ceremony, the JSU throws a themed party at the Freeman Center.

The B'nai Mitzvah Program is made possible through the generosity of the Freeman Family Program Fund.

Jewish Baccalaureate ceremony at the Freeman Center the Friday of graduation weekend. The Jewish Baccalaureate ceremony provides an opportunity to honor each student's Jewish journey at Duke, and to celebrate this growth and passage to the next chapter in their lives. 

Jewish Baccalaureate includes keynote, staff and student speakers, festive refreshments, a special gift from your JLD family, blessings, and laughter. Mazel tov to our graduates! To learn more, email Jewish Life at Duke. Enjoy photos from our 2019 celebration on Facebook.

Duke University provides students with opportunities to increase their Jewish knowledge. Duke students interested in academic coursework with The Center for Jewish Studies and/or Hebrew Language have the opportunity to pursue these disciplines with internationally renowned faculty members. Here at JLD, Rabbi Elana facilitates educational programs that help students explore their own Jewish identities, integrate Jewish values, and broaden their overall understanding of Judaism.

Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF): 

An 8- to 10-week experiential, conversational seminar for students looking to deepen their understanding of Judaism on their own terms. The program was developed at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU in 2007 and has been made available to additional campuses through Hillel International with partial financial support.

Participation in JLF includes weekly meetings over dinner at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, connecting with staff facilitators and JLF interns through meetings and one-on-one coffee conversations, and building community with other Duke students seeking to ask these questions through shared meals, shared Shabbat experiences, and meaningful dialogue throughout our time together. JLF applicants are thirsty to learn but require no previous Jewish background.  We are also a pluralistic, non-denominational organization. We do not believe there is “one right way to be Jewish.”  

  • JLF: Life's Big Questions, also known as JLF 1.0– The focus of our seminar is “Life’s Big Questions.” We may not have the answers, but we’ll create space to ask the big questions of our lives through a Jewish lens – from "who am I?" and "which communities am I a part of?", to topics of friendship, love vs. lust, and more.
  • JLF:Israel– This seminar is for students looking to deepen their understanding of Israel, its people, complexities, and our personal relationship to and with it. Our aim is to create a space to discuss the various topics and themes freely and openly, exploring questions regarding Israel: What is Israel? What is Zionism? How did things get to where they are today? and most importantly - "what is Israel for me?"  
  • JLF: Racial Justice– Offered in the spring, this 4-session seminar explores racial justice, equity, and anti-Black racism through a Jewish lens. Prerequisite: JLF 1.0.

Torah Lunch Club (TLC) – A weekly Torah study of the parshat hashuva (the weekly Torah portion) over lunch on West Campus.  Each session ends with our weekly Mincha minyan (the afternoon prayer service). Join us weekly to talk a little Torah over lunch with Rabbi Elana!

Senior Seminar – A 4-session conversational seminar for graduating seniors. Seniors reflect on their time at Duke and think about their Jewish future and the role they will play in society. Topics include relationships, time, home and life stages.

If you would like more information about any of our current programs, please email Rabbi Elana.

Career Services
Jewish Life at Duke partners with the Duke Career Center to collect resources that incorporate our students’ Jewish and/or Israeli interests. Our goal is to provide useful and interesting information to support Duke students’ self-awareness, growth, and accomplishments as they move forward in their careers. Current students can click here for a complete list of Jewish and/or Israel focused career development resources.

Internships and Opportunities
Make sure to check back in periodically for updates on Internship opportunities.


New students and families are always welcome!

student smiling wearing a "that's how i roll" shirt

If you and your family are new to Duke—or simply haven’t engaged with JDL in the past—we are so happy and excited to have you join our Jewish community at Duke. 

Each year, we welcome new students with programming and support. Our Jewish First-year Advisory Mentorship (JFAM) program pairs a group of first-year students with upperclass students who then serve as their "JFAMiliy's" guide throughout the year. We host an annual JFAM BBQ to welcome all new students.



Religious Life on Campus

In a virtual conversation for 2020 New Student Orientation, student leaders answered questions about Religious Life at Duke, including how to get connected with a campus religious group, finding time to reflect, and integrating your faith and classroom learning. Sarah Jacobs, T'21, President of the Jewish Student Union at the time, served as panelist. Watch the discussion here.  

Additional Resources:

A partnership between Jewish Life at Duke and the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, Roots to Rights is an experiential education program exploring the South's major historic Civil Rights sites.

The program explores the shared beliefs that brought these seemingly disparate communities together during this pivotal period in American history.

Learn More about Roots to Rights

Each spring, Jewish Life at Duke has hosted its very own Birthright Israel trip for current Duke University students. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, Israel programming is being offered virtually on a continual basis, covering Israeli politics, cuisine, culture, and Hebrew language. 

Birthright Israel is an international program that offers young Jews ages 18 to 32 the opportunity to visit Israel free of charge on a 10-day peer group trip. Led by JLD staff members, students travel throughout the country, exploring sites of historical, cultural, and religious significance. Jewish Life at Duke is happy to work with graduate students who wish to travel on a Birthright Israel trip with those closer to their own age.

Read more about Birthright Isreal

Are you studying abroad during the semester or over the summer? Be sure to check out the Jewish community abroad for opportunities to meet Jewish university students, celebrate holidays, volunteer in the community, and locate kosher restaurants. More resources can be found through the Global Education Office.

If you are a Jewish student who has or is preparing to study abroad, we invite you to be part of a brand new JSU initiative which pairs student mentors and mentees together in order to learn all the Jewish ins and outs of some of the world’s most vibrant cities.

Additionally, registration is available for next year's MASA and Onward Israel programs.

Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, study abroad will not occur this year. For those interested in Israel programming, we encourage you to apply for the online Birthright Excel program.

Learn More about Study Abroad

Our Approach to Israel Engagement

Israel programs and initiatives connect Duke students with Israel both on campus and abroad. Jewish Life at Duke’s approach to Israel is framed through the following three Es:

  1. Education: Programs that focus on teaching students about the diverse aspects of Israel — not just the geopolitical conflict, but also its people, culture, society, and language.
  2. Experience: Travel to Israel for firsthand experience of the country, including through Birthright Israel, Tamid, Onward, and Masa fellowships.
  3. Engagement: One-on-one coffee conversations and meetings with the Israel Fellow to explore personal connection to and views on Israel in order to help students articulate their Israel story.

Read more


Gap Year and Summer Program Opportunities.

A gap year (also known as a bridge or sabbatical year), is usually a break in studiestaken by students between high school and college. Gap years can take multiple forms,and no two gap years are the same.Students may choose to work, travel, intern,volunteer, perform military or religious service, or just take time to explore their interestsand rejuvenate before university.

Learn More

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