by Elisheva Rosen
With the start of a brand new semester, Rutgers students at the Chabad House have been busy participating in a myriad of events. The return of the well-known Post-Shabbat Movie Night, a favorite Rutgers student event, was welcomed early this spring semester. Every other week the event coordinators students Effy Gittler and Yaffa Stone arrange a movie night in the Chabad Lounge for Jewish students with popcorn, ice cream, and smoothies. The first event of the semester was well attended by students. “It was incredible,” said attendee Steve Gotlib about the movie, Disney-Pixar’s The Incredibles. “I can’t wait to see what other incredible movies they have planned.” The movies are chosen by students via Facebook votes and suggestions before they are submitted for approval. Previous movies have ranged from Defiance and V for Vendetta to Frozen and The Prince of Egypt.
In addition, this spring semester also incorporated the Chabad Learning Initiative (CLI). CLI is sponsored each semester by the Jon Shevell Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Myron P. Mike Shevell in honor of his late son, Jon. Students who participate in the ten-week program meet every Monday night for dinner and two hours of learning. The agenda includes an invitation to two shabbatons, one in Crown Heights and one at Rutgers Chabad. This semester, CLI is focusing on Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Judaism. Maimonides himself was a twelfth century Sefardic philosopher, doctor, and rabbinic scholar. His outlined principles serve as an explanation for the basic tenants needed to form a close relationship with G-d by all Jewish people. The informal discussion based classes enable students to both explore and critically analyze old and new areas of Jewish thought. “It’s a really enriching program,” according to Merav, a first year student who is participating in the program, “the discussions are fun and always present new ideas.” While learning about the Thirteen Principles, students are encouraged to pursue new perspectives on Jewish concepts as well as enrich their understanding of a Jewish identity.
The first CLI Shabbaton took place on the weekend of February 28th at Rabbi Shaya’s house. Participants met inside the Chabad House shortly after candle lighting to welcome in Shabbat with Kabalat Shabbat, songs in honor of Shabbat’s arrival, and Maariv, or evening prayers. Following the spiritual and uplifting experience of Friday night services, the students were invited to Rabbi Shaya’s apartment for a lovely home-cooked Shabbat dinner. “The Shabbaton was fantastic,” said current CLI student organizer Steve Gotlib, “it was really fun to hang out with everyone outside of the class.” Through the courtesy of the program, each student will receive a $300 stipend in appreciation for their participation. Although this past Shabbaton was one of two scheduled CLI weekends, the next Shabbaton will take place Crown Heights, close to the program’s conclusion and after the holiday of Passover.
In addition to CLI, a very similar program runs on Tuesday nights at the Chabad House called Discovery Leadership. It serves as a compliment to CLI, and the two programs have many resemblances. Like the Monday night program, students also explore the Thirteen Principles of Judaism, and go into in-depth analytical discussions about the stories, traditions, and lessons in both the Talmud and Torah. At the end of the class, each student also receives a $300 stipend as provided by the program itself. The Discover Leadership ensures that the opportunity to ask questions about Judaism and explore topics of specific interest is available to Rutgers students.
Overall, this spring semester is a very exciting time for the members of Chabad House. Not only is there a revival for old programs, but new ones as well. The members expect and hope to continue this growth within the Rutgers Jewish community.
For questions about these programs or general questions about Chabad House at Rutgers, please contact us at info@ChabadNJ.org or call us at (732) 296-1800.