By Mattea Boyarsky, RU '22
I have been told this singular phrase many times: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” If ever we needed this attitude in our time, it’s now. With the Covid-19 pandemic and political unrest, the natural inclination to merely hunker down, hide our heads in the sand, and complain to each other about how horrible things are this year is one way to get through it all; but here at the Chabad House at Rutgers, we’ve responded to the challenge and instituted amazing initiatives to keep Jewish communal life alive on and around campus this Fall 2020 semester, both in-person and virtually.
With most classes at Rutgers having been moved to online-only formats, and dorms and cafeterias closed on College Avenue, Chabad House modified its offerings to enable students living at home virtual constant contact with fellow Rutgers Jewish students, as well as to allow students still living on campus the ability to safely enjoy the cultural programs Chabad is famous for in building and maintaining a home away from home experience for those students living in off-campus house, fraternities and sororities.
Following CDC and Rutgers Health Services guidelines, Chabad offered outdoor, socially-distant High Holiday services to all its housing residents and kosher meal plan members, providing shofar blowing, pre and post Yom Kippur fast meals, Sukkot meals and a shortened and modified Simchat Torah sing-a-long, with markedly less students attending than normal years.
In addition, to answer the need to maintain its weekly Shabbat Experience weekends, Rabbi Baruch Goodman, Chabad’s Campus Director, and Zachary Peller, this year’s Chabad Student President, developed a pilot project to pack and deliver free Shabbat-to-Go! gift packages to students still on campus. These gift packs include a travel Shabbat candle lighting set, a bottle of grape juice for Kiddush, challah bread, a hot individually packed Friday Night Dinner with chicken, kugel, veggies, rugelach, chumus, a Snapple, candies, and a Shabbat greeting card with candle lighting time, a short welcome letter, and blessings for Kiddush. “The response has been phenomenal!” commented President Peller, “students can’t believe that we’re still here for them despite Covid, with full Shabbat dinners and Chabad’s trademark caring and enthusiasm.” Jacob Hoffman, a brother and House Manager of Rutgers’ AEPi Fraternity added, “Rabbi Goodman comes to our house each and every week with clearly a huge smile underneath his mask and together with a student volunteer from Chabad, deliver over 40 piping hot meals to our fraternity like an hour before sundown of Fridays.” Peller added, “The brothers look forward to our arrival and to hear what Rabbi Goodman and I have to say about Judaism and how it relates to our lives today, as well as to devour the awesomely delicious food Chabad provides us with.”
Delta Gamma Sorority sister Eliza Rosenthale commented, “With the new fall semester, Rabbi and Sarah Goodman began bringing over Shabbat meals for our sisters to enjoy – their warmth is truly unparalleled! No wonder each year, some many of the Jewish Delta Gamma sisters attend Chabad House functions and make Chabad their go to place to meet other Jewish students, and to bake Challah with Rebbetzin Sarah Goodman. Chabad has served as one of my biggest connections and most important community at Rutgers; Shabbat and Challah Baking with Chabad are the highlights of my week – I miss it so much!”
The Shabbat to Go! Program also enables students to drop by a table in front of Chabad House and personally pick up a hot Shabbat dinner package to take home with them, at no cost. If you are a student and who like to take advantage of this program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to contribute to keep this vital program going, please visit www.chabadnj.org/donate.asp
Additionally, Chabad continues to offer its outdoor Jewish learning classes including Rabbi Goodman’s Tuesday night JCafe and Rabbi Shaya Shagalow, Chabad’s Educational Director’s Sushi ‘n Soul on holy days on the Jewish calendar, all outdoors, all requiring socially-distant seating and masks.
Under the leadership of Chabad’s Student Editor in Chief, Eliza Rosenthale and Managing Editor Alexa Gross, an innovative Jewish digital newsletter is now being published to keep the Jewish students at Rutgers connected and up to date on Chabad’s plans for the upcoming Spring 2021 Semester. Another purpose of this newsletter is to make sure students know that there will be life after Covid-19, and to stay tuned for any latest updates on the pandemic and virtual campus events.
Regarding the safety protocols Chabad has in place during this pandemic, Chabad’s Executive Director, Rabbi Yosef Carlebach said “we’re not interested in cutting corners. We’re doing things the right way, incorporating CDC and Rutgers Health Department guidelines, with regular covid-19 testing, sanitizing hand stations throughout the building, sanitizing ionizing spray throughout the building, and strict policies requiring masks and social distancing at all times, both inside the building as well as outside. The health and safety of our students and staff is of utmost importance and priority. There is no greater expression of love for one’s fellow than caring for their physical and spiritual well being and safety.”
4:55 PM in New Brunswick, NJ
Shabbat Ends 5:56 PM
Friday, 29 Jan 2021