When Rabbi Meir and Shaina Rapoport and their son Mendel moved to Galloway Township, New Jersey, in September of 2016 to serve the Jewish student body at Stockton University, they rented a small home that doubled as their Chabad center. The need for a bigger space came faster than they expected.
About 10% Stockton’s 9,000 students are Jewish. There are also dozens of Jewish faculty members and a robust level of activity at the campus Chabad center. Last month, after only one year of operation, Chabad at Stockton University purchased a new center.
Centrally located, the 7,000 sq. foot building sits on nearly three acres, and is a dramatic upgrade from the old place. Facilities include a dining hall, kitchen, student lounge, game room, library, chapel, and student parking. The old place, says the rabbi, “didn’t have the presence that we wanted,” and was too far from the university. “We weren’t really accessible, except to the students who knew where we were and were willing to trek out, but now we’re on the main road and thousands of people see us every day.”
Indeed. An hour after he hung the sign outside the new Chabad center, he received a phone call from a woman who wanted to know if she could join a Shabbat meal. She saw the Chabad sign as she was driving by. “It’s a difference of night and day. We already have higher attendance.”
The new space will allow Chabad to expand its activities, enabling it to reach more individuals and making Chabad at Stockton the go-to address for Jewish students at Stockton University.
“This is a huge step towards a more vibrant Chabad presence on campus,” Shaina says. “We look forward to increased programming and participation with this new center, and we are excited to provide the students with a ‘home away from home.’”
For Stockton student Amy Greenberg, Chabad is “truly my home away from home. Meir and Shaina do an amazing job at making me and all the other Jewish students feel at home.”
Meir, the son of Chabad emissaries in Atlantic City, and Shaina, the daughter of emissaries in Madison, Wisconsin were both well groomed for their new post. The couple runs a Kosher Cooking Club (KCC), Pizza & Parsha learning sessions, Lunch-n-Learns, Chillin-n-Grillin barbecues, and themed Shabbat dinners. Their Chicken Soup Express program brings hot chicken soup to students who are under the weather, and the rabbi installs mezuzahs in the dorm rooms of those who want it.
A grand opening event and ribbon-cutting ceremony are scheduled to take place sometime during the spring semester.
Chabad at Stockton University is one of the 56 Chabad centers in the state of New Jersey under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Herson, and part of the regional Chabad centers directed by Rabbi Shmuel Rapoport.
To learn more about Chabad at Stockton, visit www.JewishStockton.com.