Students from across the Philadelphia region will have an ultimate schmoozing Shabbat.
Students from across the Philadelphia region will have the opportunity to mingle, schmooze, eat, pray, ice skate and participate in workshops as the Chabad serving Drexel University hosts its second annual regional Shabbaton, mixing celebration and education, Feb. 19 to 20.
The invited schools are: Drexel, Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, University of Delaware, University of the Arts, Rowan University, The College of New Jersey and the University of the Sciences.
It will feature guest speakers Izzy Ezagui and Rabbi Levi Kaplan. Ezagui, a decorated squad commander in the Israel Defense Forces, is the only soldier in the world who lost an arm in combat and returned to the battlefield. Kaplan is the director of the Jewish Learning Initiative’s MyShiur and Torah Cafe divisions as well as dean of Judaics at Jewish Technical Vocational School in Brooklyn.
The program will conclude with ice skating at Penn’s Landing.
Mussia Goldstein, rebbetzin at the Drexel Chabad, said she and her husband, Rabbi Chaim Goldstein, discussed this type of event for a few years before it finally came to fruition.
“When the students experienced this, they realized how much they enjoyed meeting other Jewish students,” the rebbetzin said. “There really isn’t something like this in this area.”
Goldstein told the Jewish Exponent there is a Shabbaton in New York City every October, where about 1,000 students attend, but there hasn’t been one of that magnitude in Philadelphia — yet.
“We love to see Jewish students from all different types of backgrounds meet,” Goldstein said.
With 120 people in attendance last year, finding hosts for everyone was a challenge, she said. Fortunately, many of attendees pitched in and opened their homes to their fellow students.
Additionally, the Chabad house rented a tent for the backyard, which made things a bit easier. She said they may have to look at holding it in a larger venue in the future.
She explained the event was a success because it created friendships for students that normally may not have met each other.
“You want to create a space where other Jewish students have a good time meeting other Jewish students,” she said.
Drexel students are looking forward to the Shabbaton. Eden Elimelech, 20, a junior, helped plan last year’s event. She comes from a religious background and began attending Chabad because she wanted a Jewish atmosphere on campus where she felt comfortable.
Last year, she befriended Rowan’s Molly Brussser, whom she hosted along with another girl from Rowan and one from Penn.
“It was really nice because I would not have been able to meet her,” she said. “Chabad gave her the opportunity to come.”
While she participated in the National Conference of Synagogue Youth as a teenager, those Shabbatons were much larger; she prefers small ones like what the Chabad does.
One newcomer to the Shabbaton is Tal Barzeski, 19, a sophomore, who transferred to Drexel from Temple. She is on the planning committee for this year’s event. While she participated in Hillel at Temple, she enjoys Chabad much more.
“I’ve never been part of a Shabbat this big, so I’m really excited,” Barzeski said.
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