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Moms Speak Out

Dr. Anne Arenson Winter

Siblings Rachel and Avi Kemp are Rutgers students whose home away from home is the Chabad House. Rachel lives in the Chabad dorm, while Avi can be found eating all his meals there. Both enjoy not only the meals but also the vast array of services offered on College Avenue.

What motivated their mother, Dr. Arenson Winter, to send not one but two children across the country? She wanted a great secular program in a nurturing, safe environment that would enable them to thrive as committed Jews. This path is unusual for their classmates at Yeshiva University High School in Los Angeles, but then again, Rachel and Avi’s academic paths are unique. Both Kemps graduated high school in three years. Extremely self-driven, they completed several required courses, including 12th grade English and AP courses, in order to earn their diplomas and college credit.

When a friend mentioned Rutgers, Dr. Arenson Winter had never heard of it. She did her due diligence and was pleased to discover a stellar university that offered a robust Jewish life surpassing those of other campuses across the nation.

After graduating, Rachel studied for a year at Torah Devorah, a post-high-school seminary in Israel. Chabad helped her make a seamless transition from her relatively sheltered day school/seminary life to a large college campus. Living in Chabad’s beautifully appointed single-sex dorm with a roommate who came from a similar background increased her comfort level. This religious sense of safety is reinforced by the sense of physical safety provided by the building’s security cameras and locking system. At Chabad, Rachel found a ready-made community featuring friends, social gatherings, and cultural programming. "And," adds Dr. Arenson Winter, "Where else could my daughter find a state-of-the-art women’s gym that would enable her to work out comfortably?"

Make no mistake about it. Rachel is not living like a hermit. She is living in a safe home that enables and encourages her to remain grounded in Judaism while making new friends, seeing how others observe Judaism differently, learning about other cultures, and engaging in the large, diverse Rutgers campus.

Unlike his sister, Avi went straight to Rutgers after eleventh grade and then joined many of his classmates for a year of intensive study at Ohr Jerusalem in Israel. Also unlike his sister, Avi (whom his mother jokes "could organize a minyan an hour after landing in Tibet,") probably can’t cook an egg. Kosher food that is prepared to a strict level of kashrut was, therefore, critical for him.  

While the kosher food attracts hundreds of students, it is far from the only compelling component that Dr. Arenson Winter appreciates. The building, she notes, is immaculate. "My son rented an apartment around the corner the summer before moving into the dorm. So, when it was time to move we arrived similarly armed with cleaning supplies," she recalls, "but to our delight found no need to use them."

"The staff is amazingly responsive, caring, efficient, and gracious. As a mother of two children living far away, I have a tremendous sense of confidence. They are not only safe but that they are living in a caring, nurturing environment. Chabad is the reason that they are able to engage in the world at large and receive a stellar secular education while benefitting from a vibrant religious life."

Mrs. Jackie Chaise

Like any savvy mom, Mrs. Chaise embraces each of her four children’s individuality. So, when her son, Aaron, who attended the Solomon Schechter school through eighth grade, decided to pursue a more observant life, she supported his decision to attend the Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School. And, when it came time for him to choose a place to live at his new college, Rutgers, she once again gave her whole-hearted support to his choice.

"Chabad," she says, "supports him as well." Aaron explains, "It was quiet to study in my room or the classrooms. Of course, it was convenient just to go downstairs for meals. I enjoyed relaxing in  the lounge with its big screen TV. I looked forward to Tuesday night’s Aleph Branch to eat, talk, and hear some Torah. Sushi and Soul Wednesday nights were other weekly highlights." His mother says, "In addition to the varied cultural activities and daily minyanim, living in the dorm simply suits him well. He is close with several of the rabbis and it is clear that they know him well. Their fair but strictly enforced rules certainly make me, as a parent, comfortable. I know that Aaron is happy, is socializing in a wholesome way, and isn’t wasting time in a partying atmosphere that is common in many dorms." Rabbi Carlebach explains the rules are simple: no mixed genders within dorm rooms – but there are plenty of student lounges and activities that encourage socialization, and zero tolerance for alcohol. These are certainly rules a parent, and student, can live with!

Mrs. Chaise is also very pleased that Aaron enjoys the convenience of eating all his meals right downstairs from his dorm room rather than having to trek across campus, especially in inclement weather. And, as any visitor notes, the dorms and facilities are spotless.

Mrs. Florette Abady

"When they are happy, I’m happy," Mrs. Florette Abady of Oakhurst states clearly and concisely. Fortunately, her two children Michael, a freshman, and Becca, a sophomore, are quite happy living at the Chabad House. Since Becca is a transfer student, both siblings are in their first year at Rutgers. "I love the fact that they are in a Jewish environment," says Mrs. Abady. "I have no worries about their ability to keep kosher or observe Shabbat."

Chabad’s convenient location in the center of the campus is another perk that pleases Mrs. Abady. And of course, the immaculate dorms with private bathrooms bring smiles to all our residents’ parents’ faces. Bottom line? "They are fed, happy, clean and have their own bathrooms," says Mrs. Abady. "And," she adds, "Becca and Michael are busy all the time. They participate in Chabad programs every day of the week." As a Sinai Scholar, Michael, a Hillel High School graduate, enjoys learning the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith this year. "I appreciate," he notes, "the easygoing, accepting attitude in these and other Chabad classes." Becca who initially planned to commute, says, "Chabad was a great place to start my first year here. It made it a very easy way to meet new people and other Jews in the school. Chabad has such a good environment filled with good people and good staff. Even though it wasn’t where I thought I was going to be, I’m happy this is where I ended up."

 

STUDENT PROFILE Avi Kemp

Junior Avi Kemp has a day school background and a year of intense Talmudic and biblical studying in Israel under his belt. When he wanted to pursue independent texts he simply asked Rabbi Shagalow to learn with him. "And," says Avi, "he was happy to do it. We study Tanyaweekly because that is what I wanted to learn." Where else can a student simply handpick a skilled teacher for free private lessons? "And," adds Avi, "I am only one of his many students. In addition to his more formal classes he learns with multiple students every single day. In fact he has a ridiculous number of chavrusas (study partners) weekly! Some may be learning to read Hebrew while others are grappling with learning intense Gemara dialect. Rabbi Shagalow helps each student learn at his or her own level."

Avi sums up his Chabad experience one word: "Awesome!" "I’m from Los Angeles. Chabad provides me with a great place to meet other Jewish students. I enjoy meeting with a very diverse Jewish population here. Chabad offers something for everyone."

Avi recalls that when he arrived on the Rutgers campus from Los Angeles, he found a comfortable Jewish community waiting for him at Chabad. It is simply a nice place to meet other Jews. The warm welcoming atmosphere has of course introduced him to a more diverse Jewish population.

STUDENT PROFILE: Rachel Kemp

Rachel Kemp expected the transition from an all girls’ seminary in Israel to Rutgers to be much harder than it was. Instead of a large group of strangers, she found an amazing community. "There are so many events to choose from, something exciting is always happening," she says.

Rachel is quick to point out the she enjoys events at Hillel and other Jewish groups. At the end of the day, she is thrilled to come home to her home away from home – the place that provides the Jewish environment she wants: the Les Turchin Chabad House.

She enjoys Tuesday night events that include activities such as a recent hamantasch baking, followed by a free dinner. These programs usually afford Rachel with an opportunity to expand her social network since many students who don’t participate in the regular kosher meal plan attend them. "While the crowd may be coming because of the fun filled event," Rachel reports, "the rabbis never fail to share some inspirational words and insights." Rachel also enjoys Wednesday evenings’ Sushi and Soul experience, Thursday’s challah baking with Sarah Goodman, and of course, Shabbat.  

 

 


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