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Purim at Rutgers 2016
by Blair Donner, RU Junior
The spirit of Purim was strong at Rutgers University this year. Taking place the first week students had returned back to school from spring break, the festive and happy nature of the holiday was especially resonate. Keeping up the tradition from previous years, Chabad threw a mega Purim event for over four hundred students and guests. Multiple megillah readings, for which all Jewish students on campus were invited to come and listen to, were held every hour on the hour.  Additionally, Chabad’s Campus Rabbis Shaya Shagalow and Baruch Goodman respectively held Purim parties at their homes with their families, open for all students to come.  Students also kindly volunteered their time to pack over six hundred Mishloach Manot Purim baskets filled with hamantaschen pastries and treats, and visited the elderly at local senior centers for Purim. Many of the Chabad weekly parties, farbrengen get-togethers, and classes also focused on stories and lessons associated the holiday.

The highlight of the holiday for most was the mega Purim event. Held on March 23, 2016, the entire Chabad at Rutgers University was transformed in the spirit of the holiday. Immediately upon entering, a bright red carpet was laid out to room, balloons lining the sides. Following the red carpet lead one to the main ballroom, where the guests took their seats at the beginning of event. The evening started with a traditional reading from the famous Book of Esther, referred to in Hebrew as Megillat Esther, or just the Megillah, with Rabbi Shaya proudly singing the story so that all could hear it. For those unable to understand Hebrew, versions of the story in English were available, as well as a running translated slide show.  

Afterwards, it was time to eat. A team of student volunteer directors, including Eliana Ely, Jocelyn Herman, and Aliza Bernstein arranged for a wide array of entertaining activities and hot, delicious catering, providing all sorts of treats and delicacies to enjoy. Beyond this, the party also featured a hamentaschen baking station headed by Alex Kreitman and Aliza Kaplan, and night club style, joyful Israeli music arranged by Oshrat Nachum. All students were invited to enter into a raffle, with amazing prizes including spa days, NJ Devils tickets sponsored by Joe Epstein, and gift cards to local restaurants acquired by student volunteers. Perhaps the most unique part of the Purim party was a station with two gifted artists. They were there to draw caricature portraits of students free of charge. A long queue quickly formed by their booths. By the end of the event, students were full with kosher food and hamentaschen cookies as well as tired by the excitement of the evening.

The next day, both Rabbi Shaya and Rabbi Goodman held more intimate Purim events in their homes together with their family for students to come and enjoy. The two families, together with Chabad Communications Director Rabbi Shraga Crombie had worked hard to prepare food for the students to eat as part of the traditional Purim Feast, as well as games for them to enjoy. “Over one hundred students came to my house,” Rabbi Shaya mentioned, “I was happy to see them all.” Whether in costume or not, it was clear the students were enjoying a more personal and intimate time together. In a way, that was a great function of Purim this year at Chabad – to bring the community closer together. Accordingly, on Purim the Jewish people traditionally follow four commandments: hear the Megillah, send gifts of money to the poor, send two types of food to a friend, and enjoy a Purim feast. Each and every one of these actions is a way for the Jewish community to disregard barriers, and rather come together as one united family. 

Rabbi Goodman thanked the event organizers, saying, “Hundreds of people will remember this Purim celebration, and the effects of all the mitzvahs that happened that night will inspire so many people to celebrate Purim themselves in the future. And what better year to so many people to come together than this year - the Jewish year of Hakhel, Jewish gatherings! One girl told me that she had never before celebrated Purim, but after this event, she hopes never to miss a single one!  Eliana, Jocey, and Aliza outdid Purim this year - it was the most beautiful program we ever had. I'm very proud of each one of them. All their efforts and work truly paid off.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t make note of the unbelievable energy and enthusiasm in the room from all the participants. Much thanks to our AEPi brothers and their pledges for helping serve the food and welcoming the guests!”

For information on more holiday events such as this and opportunities to be involved in the Jewish community at Rutgers, please contact Justin Dinowitz or Jessica Yenk at 732 296-1800, ext. 108.  To make a reservation at Rutgers Chabad’s Passover Seder Dinners to be help on Friday Night, April 22 and Saturday Night, April 23, please email them at


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