On Sunday, Sept. 17, when the Toronto Blue Jays took the field against the New York Yankees in their home stadium, close to 200 Jewish students from New York were on hand to cheer both teams. Students from the Hillels at Syracuse University, the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University at Buffalo gathered for the first time to watch the Yankees continue to fight to compete in the playoffs.
"I am really excited about the upstate unity," said Andrea Jacobs, director of Hillel of Buffalo.
The genesis for the outing was the fusion of two separate programs into one tremendous party. For the Hillel of Buffalo, the Yankees vs. Blue Jays game is an annual fall tradition, and this year it was been expanded to include three buses. For the Syracuse and Rochester students, this was a first-time event organized by Rabbi David Levy of the Hillel at Syracuse University. The 46 students from Syracuse and Rochester departed Saturday night after havdalah and spent the night is Niagara Falls, Ontario, where they took in the falls by night and enjoyed the Niagara Falls nightlife.
To the complete shock of the staff, at 8:45 a.m. the next day, 22 students were awake and ready to join Levy and Kyley McClain, the Steinhardt JCSC fellow at Rochester Area Hillel, to be on the first "Maid of the Mist" boat ride of the day. Everyone donned their ponchos for a breathtaking a view of the falls and a spiritual moment as they learned the blessing for seeing great natural beauty.
"I thought it was awesome that half the bus chose to get up early and come witness the beauty of the falls," McClain said.
The Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse students united to form the rowdiest (yet still well-mannered) group at the baseball game. The Blue Jays managed to overtake the Yankees, but fans of both teams agreed that they witnessed a great contest.
"It didn't matter what team you were rooting for. It was just wonderful to see all of these Jewish students having a great time together," Levy said.
"We are truly fortunate to be able to plan and carry out Hillel programs that bring together Jewish college students from throughout the Upstate New York region," agreed Joel Miller, executive director of Syracuse University Hillel.