A breeding ground of Nobel Laureates and physics geniuses, Princeton University, which ranks number one in the country, carries a prestige that is highly sought after by students (7,000 in all) and community members alike. Extending well beyond the parameters of the city of Princeton itself, surrounding counties and suburbs cling onto the Princeton label like a permanent appendage, says Chabad representative to the city, Rabbi Dovid Dubov.
Since arriving here in 1991 to serve the greater Jewish community of Princeton, Rabbi Dubov would periodically reach out to the Jewish student body at Princeton University, delivering special holiday packages to every one, and opening the doors of a newly built mikvah to grad students at the university. “But it wasn’t nearly enough,” says Rabbi Dubov, who, torn between the needs of a sizable unaffiliated Jewish community and students at the Ivy League University just next door, felt students simply weren’t getting the time and attention they needed. Thanks to the Family Rohr Foundation, Rabbi Eitan and Gitty Webb have just arrived here and Chabad is finally doing justice by the 700 Jewish students on this rigorously academic campus.
Less than two weeks into their arrival, the Webbs have set up a weekly Tanya class that is attracting students, and one-to-one learning sessions with Rabbi Webb are in full swing, with additional students signing up every day.
Nearly two-dozen people, including several Princeton professors, participated at a menorah lighting event in the center of campus this Chanukah. Situated on the main road on campus, the Menorah, which remained lit from the afternoon until the early morning hours on each day of Chanukah, caught the attention of thousands of passers-by, notes Gitty.
Students here are extremely focused and possess an incredible thirst for knowledge, says Rabbi Webb, which might explain why, despite their heavy workloads, students will often take on extra classes for added challenge. So as Princeton works to educate the “brains of tomorrow,” the Webbs are determined to supplement the Princeton curriculum with a top-notch Jewish education they hope will translate into greater observance of traditional Judaism.
“Students are very excited about having their own Chabad center on campus,” says Rabbi Dubov. “Their needs are finally being met by an extremely devoted and highly capable couple—so important at this juncture in their lives when they wrestle with existential questions of faith, and when their ideas are being shaped by the university and surrounding influences,” says Rabbi Dubov. “And with the Webbs on campus, Jewish values will play a key role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.”