“I’ve never seen a Jewish event of this magnitude ever before at Rutgers,” exclaimed Rutgers University senior Lauren Hayman of Cherry Hill, NJ.
Chabad House at Rutgers hosted yet another Mega Shabbat for 1000 collegiates this past weekend which brought together young men and women from all 5 campuses of Rutgers, as well as friends of students from other colleges including Middlesex County College, Rowan University, The College of New Jersey, Kean College, and the Rutgers Medical School, and as far away as the University of Maryland, Delaware, and SUNY Binghamton.
On campus, the event brought together students from Rutgers’ other Jewish organizations, including Hillel and RJX as well.
The event began traditionally enough, with the singing of lively, introductory Shabbat services and the lighting of the Shabbat candles as hundreds and hundreds of college students from all backgrounds and levels of observance started filling up the decked out Grand Ballroom of Chabad. “It was an electrifying sight to see so many Jews coming together to celebrate Shabbat, most of whom had never experienced Shabbat before,” commented Rutgers Sophomore, Carly Parker, of Deal, NJ.
Weeks of planning and hard work on the part of dozens of students paid off as Rutgers Chabad once again maintained its record and gathered the largest group of Jews at Rutgers in one Shabbat celebration.
The program included a Kiddush and Hamotzi prayer over 1000 fresh baked Challah Rolls baked by Rutgers Senior and Master Challah Baker Alex Kreitman of Teaneck, NJ, and her staff, opening enthusiastic words by Chabad’s student president, Rutgers Senior, Jessica Yenk of Marlboro, NJ, a personal message of “what Shabbat means to me” by Chabad’s Master of Ceremonies and ZBT Fraternity Liaison, Rutgers Senior Logan Weiss, and an inspiring moment of silence in appreciation of G-d’s gift of Shabbat, announced by Shabbat for 1000 Student Director, Nicole Collins from Voorhees, NJ.
A 5-course hot, traditional Shabbat dinner deliciously prepared by Chabad’s Head Chef, Shmuli Schwinger, was served by brothers of the AEPi Fraternity and its pledges, as well as many student volunteers. In addition, there were plenty of songs, conversation, and socializing over the stellar Viennese dessert tables. “You felt the feeling of communal belonging and Jewish pride that night!” added Logan Weiss.
Shabbat for 1000, an event sponsored by Rutgers Chabad since 2002, brings the Torah mitzvah of Shabbat to life in real time, enabling students from traditional backgrounds to interact with those who never heretofore even heard of this mitzvah.
Rabbi Baruch Goodman, Campus Director of Chabad House, spoke of the little miracle that took place in conjunction with this year’s Shabbat 1000, stating how “originally, the event was to have taken place back in February, but due to a conflict in scheduling with our sister organization on campus, Hillel, it was voted on by Chabad’s Student Executive Leadership Team to move the event to the Shabbat immediately after Spring Break. Little did we know then that that Shabbat was none other than the Shabbat when Jews all over the world read the Torah portion of Vayakel, the very Torah portion which speaks of the Divine command to gather the entire nation of Israel together and for Moses to teach them all about the observance of Shabbat! We were blown away by the Divine providence and mazel in picking this day to gather Rutgers’ Jews together for Shabbat 1000!”
Student volunteers, fraternity brothers from AEPi and ZBT, and sorority sisters from Delta Gamma and AEPhi, spent and sacrificed precious study hours, and even days, to share their love and excitement for Shabbos with their fellow Jewish students.
All of the food for the event was cooked and prepared at the Chabad House by Chef Shmuli Schwinger and his staff, along with his student volunteers Maayan Krispin, Jaclyn Rosner and Chaya Willick.
For most attendees, the family, group atmosphere, and non-judgmental feel of Chabad’s typical events on campus are what they enjoyed the most of Shabbat for 1000.
Rabbi Shaya Shagalow, Chabad’s Educational Director, led a spirited “toast contest” which encouraged 10 random attendees to volunteer to come up to the stage and say a “l’chaim” to Jewish unity, peace and the land of Israel in their own words.
One of Chabad’s leaders, Carly Parker, who was presented with birthday cake and a “Shabbat friendly cardstock birthday candle” at the Shabbat for 1000 event, commented with a big smile, “it was the biggest birthday party I ever had!”
Chabad Student Leader Adam Gorenstein commented about Shabbat saying, “there might not be any WIFI or cell phones being used at Shabbat for 1000, but you won’t find a better connection.”