"What do you see?" A Closer Look At Chabad Life in YU

By Lauren Faleck
On December 27, 2011

Many students say they do not relate to the Chabad club because they are not Chabadniks. This is a shame, since the Chabad club at both Yeshiva College and Stern is open to everyone, not just chabadniks, and everyone walks out a different and better person.

The YU Chabad club provides a service for people who are interested in learning about Hassidut. Josh Krisch, president of the YC Chabad club, discusses the disparity between Chabad in the rest of the world and Chabad here at home. "[Whereas] Chabad Worldwide offers Jewish infrastructure where there is none," Kirsch says, "Chabad at YU knows that we already have Jewish infrastructure on campus, so we provide the part that is still missing...namely a curriculum in Hassidut and a Hassidic values." The Chabad club aims to offer a service that is not currently available, to facilitate a well-rounded Jewish education by offering students a chance to learn Hassidut. YU Chabad club ensures that a student who wishes to learn Hassidut or Tanya will have an opportunity to study with YU students who have learned these subjects.

At both campuses, the message delivered is that Chabad club is for anyone who wishes to grow in the Torah learning and wishes to be embraced with utter love. According to the Stern Chabad co-president Rochel Spangenthal, "Chabad Hassidut has at its foundation the encompassing mitzvah ‘to love one's fellow as one loves oneself' and to permeate that love with acts of kindness and mitzvot. We tirelessly deliver a universal message: each person is invaluable and has a direct and powerful ability to bring wholeness and peace to the world."

"Many people view Chabad as being for the non-religious," Spangenthal continues. "But, really, Chabad and Hassidut are for all Jews, notwithstanding their affiliation. It is about making the next day a bit more wonderful than the last." Both of the YC and Stern Chabad presidents emphasize that the Chabad club is for anyone who would like to grow and strengthen their Torah knowledge and values. "We seek to engage students at their own pace and comfort level through innovative educational and cultural programs," says Spangenthal.

So far, Stern's Chabad club has had remarkable feedback. The club organizes the SCW branch of the Rosh Chodesh Society, an international Jewish sisterhood that meets monthly. On November 30, the club hosted Mrs. Shaindy Jacobson, director of the Rosh Chodesh Society, who delivered the first of a seven-part series on the essence of being a Jewish woman. Jacobson herself developed the series, titled "Portrait of a Woman: Seven Dimensions of the Feminine Mystique."

"The purpose of this course is to identify the unique strengths that account for this success," Jacobson explains. "Our goal is for each woman to walk away with a strong sense of self-awareness, empowered to be all the woman she can be."

I asked the students to describe their reaction to the Rosh Chodesh society in one word and the responses include: "fulfilling" and "enlightening."

It was a thought-provoking lecture. One quote touched me in particular. The Keter Shem Tov, Hosafot, 227 says, "When you behold a part of the essence, you behold it all." One way we can understand ourselves is by our essence – a part of G-d. We do not need to understand our entire essence, rather, if we can connect to a piece of our essence than we connect to all of our essence.

I am a Modern Orthodox Jew, currently a junior at Stern. While in high school I began to learn about Hassidut and participated in Stern's Chabad events since my arrival at Stern. By learning more about Hassidut, I find that I gain a deeper level of happiness in my Avodah that I would not have gained otherwise.

Every event that I have attended by the Chabad club, whether it is visiting a tzaddik's grave, the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Farbrengens, or the Rosh Chodesh Society, has left me a little more in touch with who I am. Stern Chabad club has had speakers such as Simcha Weinstein, "the comic book Rabbi", and weekly Tanya classes and chavrutot.

Chabad is a word that describes one of the purposes of the organization of Chabad worldwide and especially at YC and SCW. Chabad is an acronym for wisdom (chachmah), understanding (binah), and intellect (daas). Rabbi Dr. Alter Ben-Zion Metzger, professor of Jewish Studies at Stern, writes in Yiddishe Heim, page 9, "The attachment of the human spirit is effected by the union of Chaba"d [of man] with Chaba"d [of the Holy one blessed be He], by means of intellectual and oral Torah study." Chabad tries to help one develop a deeper level of Torah study.

I believe there is a saying that one only sees what he wishes to see: I ask, do you wish to focus on similarities or differences?


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