By the time students at University of Kansas and California State University, Northridge, return from holiday break, they will meet the two newest members of the 19 representatives Chabad on Campus sent to college this year.
As their departure for Kansas date nears, Rabbi Zalmy and Nechama Dina Teichtel are printing up postcards they’ll use to announce their presence on campus and pricing Chabad rep must-haves like a giant menorahs. Rabbi Chaim and Raizel Brook, who are on their way to Northridge, CA, are boxing up the contents of their Brooklyn apartment and brainstorming content for their first Torah classes.
There’s a ton to do and the clock is ticking before they must begin. The pressure mounts, but the Teichtels and Brooks are in the same boat as Chabad teams who have gone out to University of Georgia, University of Colorado, UConn, Florida Atlantic/Lynn University, Hofstra University, Einstein Medical School, University of Wisconsin, Clark University, Drake University, Western Washington University, Yale University, City College of New York, UNLV, University of Arizona, Tuscon; and University of Califorina, Riverside.
Booming numbers of Chabad representatives on campus have been made possible by grants from the Rohr Family Foundation. “The Jewish people at large will be benefiting from the Rohr family’s commitment to bringing Judaism to college students for generations to come,” said Rabbi Moshe Chaim Dubrowski, director of the Chabad on Campus National Foundation at Lubavitch World Headquarters.
For the Teichtels, the opportunity to work as Chabad representatives at KU is “is what we have been aspiring to do, and to merit to be a part of it is very exciting,” said Rabbi Teichtel. They are happy to have landed on KU’s hilltop campus. “It’s a great campus town with greenery and lakes, and cafes and galleries.”
Though the KU college seal features Moses crouched before the burning bush, a symbol according to KU website, of “the humble attitude of the scholar who recognizes the unquenchable nature of the pursuit of truth and knowledge,” it’s earned magazine rankings as a top ten “party school.” That will work in Chabad’s favor because it means “students open to new experiences,” said Teichtel.
While the Teichtels learn the KU Rock Chalk Chant and get to know the Jayhawk mascot, the Brooks will be facing a different type of student at CSUN, a commuter school. Because southern California traffic is a nightmare, many local students rent apartments near the school cutting back on the students’ need for Chabad to be their home away from home. Of the 36,000 students, it is estimated that more than 5,000 are Jewish. “They may be commuters, but their commute is five minutes,” said Rabbi Brook. “We will be there for everyone. Those who live on campus, those who don’t.”
On the other hand, CSUN students reached by Chabad can continue on beyond college with Chabad of the Valley’s extensive network of centers and programs. The Brooks’ campus is but a mile away from Chabad of Northridge. Rabbi Eli Rivkin, Chabad of the Valley’s representative in Northridge, views the campus outreach as a complement to his community programs. “At our Friday night dinners parents, young kids, and seniors are comfortable. The one demographic that needs its own programming is college age students. That’s why having a campus presence is so special. It fills the gap.”
For Kansas and California, the new representatives on campus are a return to Chabad’s early days. Thirty-two years ago, Rabbi Joshua Gordon, executive director of Chabad of the Valley, spent his mornings shuttling between CSUN (then known as San Fernando Valley State College) Valley College and Pierce College. “I still encounter many people from that era,” said Rabbi Gordon. “I personally know how potent the accomplishments on a college campus can be. Being at CSUN is a return to basics and a new level of expansion, an extremely exciting moment.”
Even college alumni are excited about the new CSUN presence. Roberta Rosenthal graduated CSUN with her B.A. in History in the eighties and remembers Jewish sororities and fraternities, but very little Jewish programming. “It would have been amazing to have Chabad there,” said Rosenthal. “It is exactly when kids need Chabad, when they are looking to find out what they will do with their rest of their lives.”