One third of Washington University’s 12,000 students is Jewish. That’s 4,000 reasons for Rabbi Yosef Landa, director of Chabad in St. Louis, to recruit a young couple to establish a Chabad-Lubavitch center on campus.
Rabbi Hershey and Chana Rochel Novack arrived in St. Louis this week, working feverishly to set up the Chabad House and a host of programs in time for the fall semester.
Known for its highly regarded graduate schools, particularly a medical school with a research department rated third in the country, Washington U has an international student body.
“A campus this size needs people who are well prepared for the challenge,” explains Rabbi Landa. “In addition to their background and experience, they have an energy and enthusiasm that make them ideal campus Shluchim,” he says. Both have worked with college-age students before. In his hometown of Los Angeles, Rabbi Novack worked extensively with students at the UCLA campus, and his wife Chana Rochel, a native of New York, served as dorm counselor for college age students at the Mayanot Institute for Jewish Studies, a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
“We will be working closely with other Jewish student organizations to bolster their existing programs, and add new and innovative activities as well,” says Rabbi Novack. Some of these plans include open Shabbat meals, Kabbalah for Dummies–series of classes on Jewish mysticism, and public menorah lightings on Chanukah.
In addition to the students on campus, there is a sizeable local community as well, mostly consisting of young professionals–classmates of the graduate students, whom the Novacks plan to include in their programming.
The Chabad center will now be housed several blocks from campus secured by the generous assistance of the Rohr Family foundation, as part of an initiative to establish Chabad Houses on campuses nationwide. But the Novacks are searching for a more permanent location, perhaps on campus itself.
“There’s a lot of action on this campus,” says Chana Rochel Novack, “We want to be right in the thick of it!”