Canadian college students engaged in a weekend of fun, friends and Jewish learning during the Chabad on Campus Canada Pegisha at Camp Bnai Brith in Quebec March 9-11.
A partnership between Chabad on Campus International and local Chabad Student Centers, the event brought together more than 70 students from Ontario and Quebec colleges including Universite de Montreal (Banon), Concordia-Loyola (Bernath), Ottawa (Boyarsky), Dawson (Lev/Kazen), McGill (Weiss), Guelph (Steiner), Western (Silberberg) and University of Toronto (Estreicher).
Pegisha is defined in the Canada program guide as a three-day meet up with “hundreds of colleges” and “thousands of life-changing experiences” (a.k.a. “bye Felicia, I’m going to Pegisha”). With a robust agenda and energized attendees, the event exceeded the expectations of McMaster University Shlucha Shaina Rosenfeld.
“I went to give and teach but connecting with so many different students from other schools and Chabad house experiences gave me more food for thought,” said Rosenfeld. “There’s a vibrancy to the Yiddishkeit on campus in Canada and it was evident all weekend.”
The weekend kicked off Friday as the day turned to night at an uplifting candle lighting ceremony to welcome Shabbat. Students joined women worldwide in adding light to the universe and transforming the mundane into the holy.
Shabbat dinner brought greetings from special guest Dr. Binyomin Abrams, an Orthodox Jew with a background in scientific studies. The scientist spoke on his return to observant Judaism during a dessert reception. Moderated by Rabbi Shmuly Weiss, Shliach to McGill University, Dr. Abrams’ discussion addressed his journey from both sides of the proverbial fence, explaining how living as a Jew in an academic setting has led him to a more connected and observant life.
Single Jews, meanwhile, joined the stars of the nationally acclaimed film “Kosher Love,” Rabbi Yisroel and Sara Bernath, for a discussion on love and relationships in the modern world. The Gemini Award-nominated film delves into the search for true love by several religious Jews.
The evening concluded with late night discussions including additional words from Dr. Abrams, a spirited girls-only gathering and a mixer for making fast friends.
Saturday included text-based studies followed by morning services or an introduction to Kabbalah mindfulness, followed by a full day of workshop series on topics including healthy relationships, the origins of Chassidism, the kosher laws and the different approaches of secular and Jewish law when it comes to murderers inheriting from their victims.
Shabbat wrapped up with a panel discussion of wise Jewish leaders and an acoustic-style Havdalah ceremony with a huge bonfire and fireworks.
The fun was far from over at sundown, however, with a little help from Saturday Night Pegisha Madness, a mega event, which included a massive BBQ, carnival games, live music and an artist-guided paint night. Students were also treated to an exclusive screening of “Kosher Love,” followed by a QA with the stars.
The weekend event ended Sunday morning as students said their goodbyes and returned to their own campuses as proud and involved members of the tribe.