For many Jewish college students around the world, the annual Pegishah in Crown Heights is a true highlight. And after being isolated or quarantined in some way, the prospect of converging on the Brooklyn hotspot for an entire weekend is particularly tantalizing.
With their eye on the fluid situation of variants and ever-changing health guidelines, Chabad on Campus International has reached deep into their creative planning machine and came up with a version of Pegishah that anyone can try on for size: “Pegishah Mini!” is this year’s iteration, and it’s designed to comply with any and every situation.
“We have designed a program that each Chabad House can customize,” explained Rabbi Avi Weinstein, COO of Chabad on Campus International. “Rather than organizing one large event for every college to attend, we are offering resources for each Chabad House to bring their student body to the Rebbe for whichever weekend they wish for this entire upcoming year. Some colleges may band together for a mini-pegishah, while others will come solo. Whichever format they choose, we will provide them with funds, branding material, and local Crown Heights resources to arrange a meaningful experience.”
The opportunity to scale the pegishah to a more curated experience is something Chabad on Campus has been looking to do for some time now. “Pegishah has grown into a program that sees thousands of students come to the Rebbe at once,” explained Rabbi Shlomie Chein, VP of Student Engagement at Chabad on Campus International & Shliach at the University of S. Cruz.. “And while the sheer numbers make for an incredible experience, it can be challenging to really address the diversity of students who come.
“There’s long been chatter about creating a program that would see smaller, more specific groups come to the Rebbe with a more tailored experience. A group from a business school is not necessarily interested in the same type of experience as a group from an Ivy League school. But while there may have been chatter, it was never implemented—until now. “We’re really excited to be able to bring this high-impact program to the Shluchim and their students,” said Chein “We know that it can be done, as Shluchim have always been bringing their own groups here and there. It’s a blessing not-so-in-disguise that we can now organize such efforts for anyone who wants to capitalize on it.
“Every year, Pegishah concludes with a trip to the Ohel, and the impact the Rebbe personally has on students just blows me away. Imagine: this year, we have the opportunity to bring a niche group of ten, twenty students and really bring them up close. The impact is bound to be so much deeper, so much more be’pnimiyus.”
Reflecting on how uncanny it is that such opportunities are born out of a challenging situation, Rabbi Yossy Gordon, CEO of Chabad on Campus International shared, “Every situation has pros and cons, and unfortunately, it’s all too easy to focus on the cons of a new, challenging situation. But as the Rebbe made so vividly clear at every opportunity, every day was ‘the’ day. If it was Tisha B’Av on Shabbos, or Tu B’Shvat on a Tuesday, the Rebbe always managed to discover something special, unique, and overwhelmingly good about the day.
“The Rebbe was essentially teaching us that whatever happens, find the best thing in that particular situation, and then focus on that. So, a huge Pegishah is terrific, but the advantages of a smaller Pegishah are no less so; in fact—as we’re now realizing—it may even be better.”