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Rutgers Goes Dark as Students Find Refuge and Shelter in Chabad

“Chabad was like a lighthouse in the middle of a dark ocean this week,” commented Chabad Student President and Rutgers Senior Jessica Loren from Teaneck NJ, “with students from all over the blackened-out campuses of Rutgers converging on the one residence building on campus that had light!”  With Hurricane Sandy threatening, scores of Rutgers University students assembled in Chabad House on Sunday and Monday to weather the unprecedented storm with friends, hot food, student emergency liaisons, and caring Rabbis.  “Many students who live in off-campus housing and campus dorms felt unsafe staying alone in their rooms and requested temporary housing in our building,” stated Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, Chabad’s Executive Director, “and we were more than happy to oblige, but before we knew what was happening, our large dining room became transformed into a huge emergency shelter for college students.”   

Without the use of electricity, Chabad’s kosher cafeteria staff headed by Chezky Adler fired up the natural gas ovens and began a cooking marathon to keep up with the number of students piling into the 52,000 sq.ft.building. With no computers or cell phone reception, emergency guidance and building protocol were provided by Chabad’s Educational Director Rabbi Shaya Shagalow and Resident Advisor (RA) Talia Friedman to prepare the crowds of Chabad dorm residents and guests for the storm.  “Talia was amazing,” stated Rabbi Goodman, Chabad’s Campus Director, “from warmly welcoming in all those students and meeting with them to review emergency procedures, setting up beds and linens, and preparing the first aid kits, to organizing the presentation and clean up of food, it was Talia who single-handedly took on Sandy!” “We made sure that everyone who came to Chabad would be safe,” Talia proudly stated. 

Cases of flashlights and LED flexible book lights were immediately purchased by Chabad’s Administrator Rabbi Mendel Carlebach and distributed to all students in Chabad House by Outreach Director Rabbi Shraga Crombie and student resident Aliza Kaplan in advance of and during the storm. “It looked like you were walking through a shaft of coal miners with students comfortably walking everywhere in the building with their personal flashlights,” added one student guest during the storm. “I felt so safe to be in Chabad House with such caring people in such a massive, strong and safe building.”

Student volunteers, including Rachel Ullman, David Schenkler, Jordana Silberstein, Devorah Friedman, Benjy Ratzersdorfer, Martelle Spiewak, Michael Gevertzman, Ari Lopatin, Biana Gorelik, Aliza Kaplan, and David Goldmeier provided key assistance during the storm to keep up with numbers of students seeking shelter, food and a secure atmosphere. “We applaud and thank these students who rose to the occasion and provided such vital services and care for their fellow Rutgers students during the sudden evacuation of the campus,” commented Rabbi Carlebach.  “All student volunteers also made sure [via texting and facebook] that friends in other dorms knew that Chabad was open, safe and welcoming,” added Talia.

Rabbi Baruch and Sarah Goodman and their children set up the weekly Tuesday night café with hot food immediately after the storm, despite the closed streets with downed trees, power and telephone lines. “Students walked from their cold and dark houses to Chabad House, which for some reason was the only building I saw on College Avenue with light that night,” exclaimed Rutgers Freshman, Esti Mellul of Teaneck, NJ, “You can always count on Chabad, “added Chaya Shapiro, a Chabad student intern, “we got through it together.”




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