Students at Rutgers experienced a rebirth of Jewish life this fall semester as Chabad House reinstated all its exciting daily and weekly educational and social programs and gatherings. Among them is the highly popular Scarlet Friday Knight Shabbat Dinner Experiences with over 500 students attending each and every weekend.
“What a difference from last year,” commented Mattea Boyarsky, a Rutgers senior and Chabad’s student Vice President, “where Rutgers’ College Avenue was a ghost-town and the overwhelming majority of students were home taking classes virtually.” But not everyone.
Some students decided to weather the pandemic on campus in “pods” of dorm roommates, housemates fraternity brothers, and sorority sisters. When Chabad House learned of these hidden pockets of campus holdouts, its rabbis transitioned the weekly Shabbat dinner experiences to “Shabbat-to-Go” gift boxes either delivered to or picked up by these students pods.
One of these deliveries was to the brothers of the Rutgers AEPi Jewish Fraternity. Each week, Chabad’s Campus Activities Director, Rabbi Baruch Goodman, a brother himself of AEPi, together with student volunteers, packed and delivered these dinner gift packs of homebaked challah, grape juice for Kiddush, delicious full-course dinners, desserts, and inspirational Shabbat cards to very happy men at their fraternity on Sicard Street.
At the end of the semester, Sammy Breslau, a brother, and Vice-President of Rutgers AEPi, asked Rabbi Goodman to come to the back parking lot of the fraternity for a minute. To the rabbi’s surprise, there was a whole group of brothers gathered with smiling faces, welcoming the rabbi, with Sammy speaking, thanking Rabbi Goodman and Chabad House for taking care of them during covid, and presenting him with a beautiful, personalized wooden plaque with an engraved image of Chabad House. These plaques, a symbol of students’ membership in the brotherhood, are traditionally decorated, engraved, and given as a gift to a new brother in the fraternity from their “big” – the older fraternity brother who the “little” gets as their direct role model and advisor throughout their initiation and time in college.
“Rabbi Goodman comes to our house every Friday before sundown with a clearly huge smile underneath his mask and delivers to our whole brotherhood piping hot meals and desserts so that we can celebrate Shabbat even during the pandemic,” announced Sammy. “And we’d like to present you and Chabad this [plaque] which reads: To our Big Brother Rabbi Goodman from your Little Brothers – the Brothers of AEPi Rho Upsilon Chapter.
Zach Peller, an esteemed brother of the fraternity, and last year’s Chabad President said, “The gift to Rabbi Goodman and Chabad is a testimony of the long-lasting relationship and partnership that both AEPi and Chabad have had for so many years and of the commitment to support one another in keeping Jewish values alive and well on campus as we move forward. As the great Martin Luther King Jr. said, We must live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”