A crowd of over 250 students packed the Rutgers Chabad House this past Tuesday night at its Spring Semester Open House and Jewish Involvement Fair to watch a professional magic show by Rutgers Business School Senior Eric Wilzig. Despite the frigid 9 degree temperature that night, students from all 5 campuses filled the newly expanded, luxurious dining room and first heard introductions by student leaders of Chabad’s Executive Leadership Team as to the purpose of the night’s performance. “By the end of this week, we will already have entered into the joyous Jewish month of Adar,” began Mitch Seigel, a Rutgers Junior and Chabad Student Treasurer, “and what better way to prepare for it than to get together as one big family here at Rutgers, and be entertained by the extreme magic of our own Eric Wilzig!”
Eric, an active member of the Rutgers Chabad Executive Leadership Team, performs his Houdini-style, award-winning magic from New York City to Las Vegas to LA, with a repertoire including mindboggling illusions, mentalist feats, and daring escapes. Highly acclaimed by celebrity hosts and personalities, such as Nick Cannon of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Eric travels the country and entertains young and old with enthusiastic presentations and tricks.
The performance raised funds from students to support Chabad’s Hospital Visitation Program with RWJ Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Toy Distribution Program at S. Peter’s Pediatric Ward, which are organized by Chabad student leaders Debra Zauderer, Britney Plotnick and Ellen Trosman, as well Danielle Bernstein’s Save a Child’s Heart Campaign. Over $500 was raised during the program.
“The true joy of this holiday season is when we get together and give of ourselves to others,” stated Rabbi Baruch Goodman, Chabad’s Campus Director, “and you should all be very proud of yourselves in raising these funds for those around us in need, like the Lubavitcher Rebbe always says – “when two Jews meet, it should benefit a third.”
Justin Dinowitz, a Rutgers Sophomore and Chabad’s Fraternity Liaison, greeted the crowds by speaking of how to celebrate the month of Adar and the upcoming holiday of Purim on campus, instructing “to get us in the mood for this special time of year, we give extra tzedaka to those in need, do extra favors for each other, do extra mitzvahs for G-d, have Jewish parties, and of course remember to say l’chaim at special occasions!” Jason Nissenblatt, a Rutgers Junior and Chabad’s Shabbos Director added a special invitation to the many new students who came to Chabad for the first time that night, “to remember to come and invite your friends every Tuesday night for our free, weekly Jerusalem Café, and to check out our amazingly delicious and fun Friday night Shabbat Dinner Parties, held every Friday night at 6:15pm, where hundreds of your fellow Jews on campus gather and celebrate Shabbat! No experience necessary, and it’s all free! Be our guests!”
Eric Wilzig’s stellar magical performance enthralled the audience, with daring feats and illusions, and periodically calling up fellow students as volunteers. “I cannot believe my eyes,” stated Rutgers Junior Josh Herzfeld, “the audience was totally mesmerized by Eric’s outstanding performance. People were leaning from side to side and standing up, futility trying to figure out how he did those illusions, especially escaping the ‘Jaws of Death’ – it was dramatic!” Sarah Goodman, the Campus Rebbetzin, spoke of how well Eric’s assistant, Lizzy Tessler, performed as well. “Lizzy’s breathtaking illusions and darling personality gave the show glamour and excitement! She was perfect, and no one could imagine where she disappeared to. Watching the show, you really see how accomplished and talented Lizzy herself is, and what an amazing asset she is to Eric.”
The festive month of Adar was described by Queen Esther many years ago as “the month that was reversed for them from grief to joy,” (Book of Esther, 9:22). It’s a time that we are enjoined to increase in our joy (Talmud, Taanit 26b). Perhaps the magical theme of the night, that of not trusting our physical, fleshy eyes when faced with illusions, is just the lesson we need as we enter the month that we ask Hashem (G-d) to transform the darkness of our world into the Torah-promised light of freedom, joy and redemption for us, and for all Israel, revealing that G-d is really behind the scenes, orchestrating everything, and preparing us and the entire world for the grand finale revelation of Moshiach now!