Opening week on campus with Chabad GW saw almost 500 Jewish students join a series of events including a Welcome (back) BBQ, Jewish Students Cruise, and Sunset Shabbat. With a new and dedicated board and incredible energy, this year promises to be the best yet.
The BBQ brought hundreds of students to sign up for the upcoming semester, and apply for Sinai Scholars as well as the Chabad GW Knapp Fellowships, a prestigious opportunity for students’ leadership development.
The dinner cruise on the Potomac river was packed to capacity, with a growing waiting list, and students were delighted to be joined by fellow shluchim and some friends from American, Georgetown, George Mason and Gallaudet Universities. That’s in addition to Pizza and Parsha and the Chabad GW Mezuzah Bank, all off to a great start.
Over the years, many thousands of Jewish students from a variety of affiliations, and many who sadly claim none, have taken advantage of the proximity of international and government institutions to the George Washington University, which enjoys one of the largest Jewish student populations in the US.
“Chabad GW has truly enhanced my experience here, and I’m really excited at the coming year’s possibilities,” said Michael (Azi) Farr, member of Chabad GW’s student board, and a the President of the GW JLSA (Jewish Law Students Association). “We’re off to a really great start, building on last year’s amazing growth.”
The phenomenon of Chabad’s success at GW goes back to the early 90’s, when Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), and Chabad GW’s founder, brought events to that campus which engaged great numbers of Jewish students, alumni and faculty members.
Some of the earliest memorable programs there include the first lighting of a large menorah on Gelman Yard (now Kogan Plaza) with University President Steve Trachtenberg, as well as a large sukkah on that same space, drawing hundreds of students and many curious onlookers, traditions that have continued for decades. Strong relationships developed as a result of these, enabling better interactions for shluchim well beyond Washington, DC with AePi, Hillel International, AIPAC, and others.
In fact, President Trachtenberg was an early supporter of Chabad on the campus, participating in many of its events there, including serving as moderator of the legendary Alan Dershowitz – Nathan Lewin Debate on Menorahs on Public Property in 1994, which drew an overflow crowd of over 800 at the GW Betts Marvin Theater.
Other early activities included facilitating the Washington program for Steinhart PJC Jewish Heritage Programs in 1997, headed by legendary shliach (and Chabad on Campus International President) Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, and the Mayberg Fellows of the Living Legacy Conference, which has brought hundreds of student leaders from across the US to interact with government officials and Jewish community personalities.
More recently, in cooperation with Chabad on Campus International, Chabad GW board members and leaders played a key role on behalf of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) in hosting almost 200 prominent Jewish student leaders from nearly 50 campuses for a special Shabbaton just before the annual AIPAC conference.
“I never saw anything like this before in my life,” remarked Adam Milstein, Chairman of the Israeli-American conference and a prominent Jewish communal leader who addressed the students at the Shabbaton. “There is such a great energy at Chabad with the students.”
Various shluchim and bochurim helped develop the program there over the years. At least five alumni have become Chabad Shluchim in their own right. Now Rabbi Shemtov, together with his wife, Nechama, their son Rabbi Menachem, and the rest of their family, along with a growing network of Jewish students and faculty on the campus, have harnessed the power of Chabad GW to present an amazing start to the new year, and prepare to add new shluchim who will soon join the team and take the program to even greater heights.
“As Chabad GW prepares for Rosh Hashana, I’m inspired by the hundreds of new Jewish students on campus who are eager to engage with the Jewish community,” said another student board member, Andi Heffez ’18, “I am excited to make Chabad GW an even better place for students to learn, connect and be inspired by their Judaism and grow closer as a community.”
Affiliated with Chabad on Campus, Chabad GW is the authorized representative of the International Chabad Lubavitch movement on the campus of The George Washington University. For inquiries and more information, please contact [email protected]