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Saturday, December 9, 2023 - 26 Kislev 5784
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The Sephardic Synagogue
In honor of the 37th Anniversary of the founding of Chabad House at Rutgers University, Chabad has recently published a 204 page coffee-table pictorial album.   This book is complete with the history of Chabad House, from its humble beginning in a rented room to its present day location in the heart of the Rutgers Campus.  Colorful stories and photos depict all aspects of the Chabad House and its outreach activities at Rutgers, and throughout New Jersey.

The album contains special articles written by Elie Wiesel, and by Governor Chris Christie. 

We are proud to present you with excerpts from this magnificent historical account of how the largest Chabad House in the world was founded and nurtured by rabbis, community leaders, and supporters.  

* * *

College Homecomings. A time for college team pride, home court advantage, tailgate barbecues, and celebrations. Homecoming this year at Rutgers had a whole new meaning for hundreds of students from Sephardic backgrounds with the opening of the Chabad House’s new Franco-Ashkenazi Family Sephardic Synagogue, the first and only Sephardic shul on a public university campus in the United States. Rutgers students who hail from the area’s Sephardic communities including Deal, West Long Branch, and Eatontown, in New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York, gathered for a unique, homestyle Syrian Shabbat celebration at Chabad.

The festivities began in the new synagogue with a Shabbat service led by Rutgers Sophomore Isaac Sasson of Eatontown, chanting the kabbalat Shabbat prayers with distinctive Syrian tunes. “It was so inspiring to hear all the Sephardic students all chime in when they recognized their families’ tunes,” exclaimed Aliza Bernstein, a Rutgers junior. “I enjoyed hearing all the different melodies, ones that I’d never heard before growing up in East Brunswick.”

After services, the massive crowd of students made its way to the dining room to enjoy authentic Syrian Shabbat cuisine of challah breads baked by our Sephardic female students, a kibbeh hamdah (chicken-lentil soup with mini meatballs and matzah balls,) lahmajun (ground beef rounds), kibbeh, (a torpedo-shaped fried croquette stuffed with minced beef and lamb), and Aleppo lace chocolate cookies.

Student Vice President Mitch Seigel, welcomed the group, highlighting the “amazing unity that exists on campus, where students for all backgrounds come together as one, and celebrate our different customs and unique qualities.” Rabbi Baruch Goodman, Campus Director, lauded these students for “their contributions to campus life as well as their exemplary spiritual sensitivity and love for Hashem’s mitzvot. “ He concluded, stating that “our Sephardic students very much set the pace for enthusiastic Jewish identity and involvement on campus.” During the meal, students sang Syrian Jewish songs and shared divrei Torah quoting Syrian chachamim.

Student organizers included Alexa Golden, Jasmine Moradi, Nathan Ades, Oriel Arusy, Odette Ades, Jesse Antebi, Evan Mahgarefteh, Joe Epstein, David Dahan, Tomer Weber, Eliana Ely, Al Sultan, Elad Mashiach, and Michael Abady.

Chabad provides daily Sephardic and Ashkenazic services for the students at Rutgers University, along with regularly held Sephardic-themed Shabbatonim, with authentic foods of Syria, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Morocco. Rutgers Sophomore Jesse Antebi commented, “when I first came to Chabad in my freshman year, it was very nice, but now that I have a synagogue and full program of cultural activities based around my own customs, I’m amazed. You rabbis take really good care of us! It keeps getting better and better, thank you!”

As Michael Abady, a Rutgers senior, said, “Mabrouk” to the growing Rutgers Syrian/Sephardic community.


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