by Jonathan Alpert
Over 100 Jewish college students from across the Delaware Valley gathered for a one-of-a-kind Shabbat experience in Atlantic City last weekend. The Chabad on Campus Delaware Valley Shabbaton provided a fully immersive Shabbat experience that featured festive meals, beginner’s prayers services, world-renowned teachers and speakers, educational and entertaining workshops, and a musical, candlelit Havdalah service.
Students attending the Shabbaton came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were exposed to Judaism at a young age, while others just recently found out about their heritage. According to Rabbi Chaim Goldstein, co-director of the Rohr Chabad Center serving Drexel, the diversity of the students that attended the Shabbaton created the unique atmosphere of the weekend. “The Shabbaton provides a great opportunity for Jewish students from different universities and backgrounds to meet new friends and catch up with old ones. The atmosphere of the weekend provides a unique opportunity for students to fully embrace all aspects of Shabbat, both physically and spiritually, as they are fully immersed in the Shabbat experience for 25 hours.”
The Shabbaton was partially sponsored by Chabad on Campus International, organized by a committee of Chabad on Campus directors in the Delaware Valley Region, including Rabbi Chaim and Moussia Goldstein, co-directors of the Rohr Chabad Center serving Drexel, as well as Rabbi Hersh and Fraidy Loschak, co-directors of the Rohr Family Jewish Student Center – Chabad of Rowan University.
The theme of the weekend was “Israel advocacy and fighting anti-Semitism on campus.” Workshops were led by Laibel Mangel, a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, current krav maga instructor and expert on Israel activism on campus. The scholar in residence for the weekend was renowned Jewish educator Rabbi Mordechai Dinerman, who ran multiple workshops throughout the weekend on how Judaism addresses hot topics of the 21st century.
“It is a very interesting and challenging time to be a Jewish student on college campuses,” said Rabbi Goldstein. “I hope that the students return to campus stronger, prouder, and more involved Jews.”
Chabad on Campus, an international organization which offers a home-away-from-home to Jewish students for all backgrounds, has experienced exceptional growth on college campuses across North America and the world over the last 10 years.
“Regional Shabbatons are extremely meaningful, as they allow for Jewish students from different campuses to meet each other and spend significant time together bonding over a shared love of Judaism,” said Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive vice president of Chabad on Campus International. “While the students come together for a seemingly short period, the friendships and connections forged over Shabbatons can last a lifetime, and students return to campus empowered and inspired.”
Jardin Cassel, a sophomore at Rowan studying secondary education, reflected on the weekend away. “The spiritual aspect of Judaism that I felt over the weekend was not something I was used to from other youth groups. It was nice to feel that change. I can’t wait for the national Shabbaton in New York.”