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The World's Largest Student Center Meets Up with a Sukkah Hut

“Build it and they will come” was the theme of this year’s High Holiday events at the new, expanded Chabad House Student Center at Rutgers University. With the opening of its new massive dining hall and added residence suites, students from every walk of life now experience the full array of exciting Jewish programming and celebrations Chabad is famous for.  In fact, this year already, “over 4,500 daily and holiday meals were served over the course of just the first month of school,” stated Rabbi Carlebach, Executive Director of Chabad House.

Becca Fish, RU '11 School of Education


“The numbers of students attending this year skyrocketed in comparison to last year. During the Sukkot and Simchat Torah festivities on campus, our staff observed over 300 friends of students from other colleges, as well as alumni, sleeping over and attending the many, daily holiday programs along with our current students,” added Rabbi Baruch Goodman, Campus Activities Director of Chabad House. “We are witnessing a truly unprecedented renaissance of Jewish participation and attendance here on campus with the new building. We hope that our efforts here at Rutgers will become a prototype for student centers throughout the country, bringing more and more students back to their rich heritage.”


The Giant Sukkah was erected in Chabad’s new parking lot, and stood strong as hundreds of students assembled throughout all eight days of the holiday to eat, play ping-pong and pool, study, and meet new people. During the Sukkafest Extravaganza held on Tuesday night, celebrating Simchat Beit HaShoavah, students posed for party pictures, played games, socialized, heard live music, and conducted a raffle in the Sukkah.


Special guest Becca Fish, a Rutgers School of Graduate Education Alumna and now elementary school educator, spoke to the students of the essential services Chabad House provides to all students, regardless of affiliation or background, stating “each and every one of you is very lucky to have the Chabad House here at Rutgers, because the rabbis, rebbetzins and staff here truly care about you.” She added that “this is the place that inspired me to investigate my Judaism in a more meaningful and personal way, and I welcome you all to take full advantage of this place and the special and loving people who run it. No matter what your level of involvement is, you will feel totally comfortable and appreciated.” Ms. Fish is the granddaughter of the late June Walker, International President of Hadassah, and National Chairwoman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.


During the week of Sukkot, under the direction of Chabad's Educational Director Rabbi Shaya Shagalow, Chabad's portable Sukkah went throughout the campuses of Rutgers, allowing hundreds of students and faculty to perform the mitzvah of shaking the Lulav and Etrog, as well as making a brocha in the Sukkah on snacks provided. In addition, Chabad's Community Service Group headed by Rutgers Junior Britney Plotnick, visited Jewish patients in both S. Peters Medical Center and RWJ University Hospital, also providing patients and hospital personal with the Lulav and Etrog. 


Simchat Torah is the most joyous holiday of the year, and celebrates the ending and the restarting of the Torah cycle, and at Rutgers, it’s become known as “the place to be.” Competing with such popular Simchat Torah hotspots as Colombia University and the Lincoln Square Synagogue, over 600 students chose and converged on Rutgers Chabad to celebrate.  The massive crowd of students began dancing the traditional hakafot – circle dancing with the Torahs - inside Chabad’s new dining hall, but quickly spilled on the street, with many more student passersby joining the crowd.  “It’s amazing to see so many people – most not even religious at all –feeling so good about being Jewish,” commented Rutgers Junior Mitchell Seigel from Marlboro, NJ, “I’m happy everyone is seeing that we still have it – even after millions were killed in the Holocaust simply for being Jewish, and even though we might not be the best Jews in history, this kind of holiday reminds everyone just how amazing it is to be Jewish. It’s a time to celebrate and remember what our people have gone through.”


Rabbi Goodman with 1st year students Justin Dinowitz, Dina Finkel and Susan Teplinsky

Making Havdalah after Simchat Torah-Shabbat Weekend with the students of Rutgers

Some members of Chabad's Leadership Team: Monica Plotnick, Britney Plotnick, Chelsea Bayard, and Mitch Seigel

Fun in the Sukkah during the Simchat Beit HaShoavah celebration

"Pizza in the Hut" with Rutgers students

Yes, even Ping Pong and Pool in the Sukkah!

Shaking Lulav and Etrog with Rutgers Chabad Alum Jeremy Halper

Rabbi Shraga Crombie with Chabad's Portable Sukkah in front of Brower Commons on College Ave. shaking Lulav and Etrog with 1st year student Jonny Jaffe

 

 


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