May 26, 2013
Our YU "Chabbaton" Experience
Shayna Darling, a student in Stern College in New York, describes her Shabbat experience in Crown Heights with the Chabad Club at Stern.
By Shayna Darling
As a Baalas Teshuva from Oregon, I donít find that I have one, particularly strong identification with a certain Orthodox group that would negate a relationship with another one. I see beauty in every sect - Chabad, Modern Orthodox, Yeshivish, you name it. We are all Jews, we all ultimately yearn for the same thing, we all have the same connected souls. I truly believe that every Jewish community has its own gems that it can offer to every Jew and inspire them.
This open-mindedness and curiosity is what pushed me towards the Chabad Club at Stern, when I arrived as a transfer student in 2012. Throughout the year, Chabad Club has brought many fascinating speakers to Stern and other interesting programs such as Menorah distributions. The world of Chabad is one in which I have always felt like I was on the outside looking in. That is why the Chabbaton was a fantastic opportunity for me.
Sternís Chabad club, led by Rochel Spangenthal and Chaya Schreiber, organized a Stern Shabbaton in Crown Heights packed with great speakers and events. We started our trip early Friday, when a bus left Stern towards Crown Heights and navigated through the narrow streets of New York, until we arrived at the Chabad headquarters and were welcomed with a shiur given by Rabbi Levi Garelik.
He gave us a quick rundown on the history of Chabad and Chassidus, as well as his own personal experiences growing up as the child of shluchim in Italy. This shiur truly rejuvenated me for what was to come. I found it so inspiring, so honest, so refreshing; it was the kind of words that touch your soul, the words that are usually buried away in the average shiur.
We walked by 770 - a place I had heard so much about from every Chabad girl at Stern. We passed through the midst of construction workers carefully creating wooden signs for the Lag BíOmer parade, and made our way up to the Rebbeís library, where we were given a tour of many amazing historical documents, hundreds of years old.
And then Shabbos came in.
One of my favorite parts of Shabbos is Kabbalos Shabbos, and I felt that the one I experienced in Crown Heights was the closest I have felt to a Kabbalos Shabbos in the holy city of Jerusalem. I chose to go to the Chevra Ahavas Yisroel Shul. It is a small, nondescript building; yet once you walk inside, the power of prayer entrenches your soul. Voices rise and twirl together with emphasis placed on every word, brushing against the ceiling. I left inspired by the kavana that filled that Shul.
After Kabbalos Shabbos, we all headed to Rabbi and Mrs. Simon Jacobsonís house, the former being a well-known speaker and author of the book Towards a Meaningful Life, while the latter is the founder of JLIís Rosh Chodesh Society. The dinner was filled with great food (somehow more and more kept coming from the kitchen) and intriguing philosophical debates, lasting until girls began to leave around 2 am.
The next day we regrouped for Seudah Shlishit, hosted at the house of one of our own Stern girls, and featured guest speaker Bronya Shaffer. The Seudah was filled with niggunim, which I honestly had not heard very much of before, nor did I understand until that moment. I felt myself slipping more comfortably into a world I had until then been so unfamiliar with.
Our Shabbaton came to a close with a beautiful Melava Malka. Feasting on pizza and pasta, we had our writing analyzed by notable handwriting analyst Chani Blotner. Sitting in a circle as the depths of our personalities were publicly explored, we came together as a cohesive group committed to our interest in Chabad.
One of the most meaningful things for me is discovering the diverse group of Jewish communities. We are all different, yet at the same time we are all the same. Together we combine like fibers woven into a carpet; it is our unity and uniqueness that together create a masterpiece of Jewish people. I am thankful I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a unique and meaningful part of Judaism, and I truly hope that many more will do the same.
Special thank you to Rabbi Tzali Laufer for his help in coordinating the itinerary and the Andrusier and Nunez family for hosting events.