Chabad Conference Explores Expansion of Jewish Life on Campus
Over 800 Chabad directors and families from 175 campuses unite in Stamford, Conn.
University and college campuses from across the world were represented at the 2012 Chabad Campus International Conference last week, as over 800 Chabad directors and their families from 175 campuses took part.
The conference began on June 25 and spanned a total of four days, over which time these campus-based Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Israel came together in Stamford, Conn. and participated in workshops, lunch table discussions, dinner programs and general sessions to discuss ways to improve Jewish campus life.
The Canadian campuses represented included Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., the University of Western Ontario in London, Ottawa's Carleton University as well as the University of Ottawa (U of O), McGill and Concordia University in Montreal, Que. and the University of Guelph, which will open its new Chabad House this upcoming school year.
“The beauty of this conference could be found in the shared purpose and unifying spirit among all the attendees,” said Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive vice president of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Chabad on Campus International Foundation. “Each has a role to play in providing a home away from home for Jewish students, whoever they are and wherever they may be found.”
It was also announced during the conference that this upcoming year, Chabad would be opening four new centres for Jewish students in Europe, including American Jews studying abroad. These centres will be located in Amsterdam, Berlin, Florence and Frankfurt, joining existing ones in Debrecen, Hungary and Paris, France. Students will be provided by Chabad with Torah classes, Shabbat meals and holiday services in the local languages of these new locations.
“By far, this was the largest conference ever, said Gordon. “But its impact goes way beyond the attendance. This is the one time each year that Chabad House directors representing 175 campuses with full-time operations and hundreds more with partial services can get together with their family and friends from around the globe and hash out issues and implement planning ideas for the coming year.”
The idea sharing that took place at the conference spanned over a variety of topics, including ways to improve Friday night Shabbat dinners, how to maximize Chabad trips and shabbatons, overseeing Chabad events and activities such as fundraisers as well as teaching and advising Jewish students campus.
“We must not rest until every Jewish student is provided with whatever he or she needs in terms of engaging with the beauty of Judaism and making it a part of his or her life,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, chairman of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation.
One of the initiatives unveiled was a study project that would bring Torah learning “to a new level,” according to Rabbi Asher Yaras, director of Chabad House on Campus serving colleges near Rochester, N.Y., and the chairman of this year’s conference.
The initiative was launched to educate students through a variety of topics such as business and medical ethics, Talmud, running a kosher kitchen with a non-Jewish roommate and weekly Torah portion discussions in ways relevant to students’ lives.
Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky, co-director of the Chabad Student Network of Ottawa which caters to students at both U of O and Carleton told Shalom Life that these new courses would be taught to students through more modernized curriculum forms, for instance via the use of PowerPoint presentations.
“The idea is to do better activities and to make sure that not one student gets left behind and every student is included in Jewish life on campus,” said Boyarsky. “We always have to do more and more. The idea is never to rest until everyone is reached.”
With files from chabad.org.