by Jill Huber, NJJN
In keeping with the Chabad movement’s mission — “to create and increase awareness of Jewish heritage and culture, and to pursue wisdom, understanding, and knowledge” — the Chabad-Lubavitch of Western Monmouth County has established an outreach center for students attending Brookdale Community College.
The new Chabad Jewish Center, which opened in early October, is located in the Holmdel residence of Rabbi Shmaya Galperin, the program director. The center also will schedule activities at locations on BCC’s Lincroft campus on an as-needed basis, Galperin said, adding that a celebration planned for the campus in November will mark the official opening of the center.
“The Chabad Jewish Center is a place where students can relax, converse with each other, and study if they want to,” Galperin told NJ Jewish News. “There is a lot of downtime between college classes, and the students have the opportunity to hang out here in a comfortable, friendly, nurturing environment.”
The center also will offer “lunch and learn” programs, Shabbatons, holiday and festival celebrations, adult education forums, and children’s programs, he said.
More than 25 BCC students have expressed interest in the new center, and the number of interested students is expected to increase as awareness of the facility expands, Galperin said. Approximately 10 percent of BCC’s 15,000 students are members of the Jewish community, he said.
“Everyone is looking for something meaningful in their lives,” Galperin said. “College students in particular are open-minded about their culture and heritage. They are the future — the next generation of Jewish leaders and community members — and they are already interested and involved in Jewish life.”
The center represents the Chabad mission, Galperin said. “In the Chabad network, the vision is to help and understand Jews who live beyond your own neighborhood. The vision is to create and increase awareness of Jewish heritage and culture, and to pursue wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. The Chabad philosophy tells us to go out and help others and bring awareness to them.”
Fill a void
Galperin was born in South Africa, where his parents were religious emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. The family moved back to the United States when Galperin was 13, and he began his own rabbinical studies in 2000 at the Rabbinical College of Canada in Montreal. He was ordained in 2006 at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown.
During the past few years, Galperin has pursued his studies at the Worldwide Lubavitch in Brooklyn and the Chabad of Western Monmouth County’s Bais Menachem Yeshiva in Manalapan. He also has been working on program development projects with Rabbi Boruch Chazanow, the Chabad’s director.
“Students are at a very impressionable age,” said Chazanow. “They are searching to find themselves, and having a rabbi available for answers and guidance is very important. I meet many people whose connection to Judaism can be linked to an encounter in college.”
The Chabad’s college center has been endorsed by Linda Milstein, BCC’s vice president of outreach, business, and community development, said Galperin, who plans to meet with BCC president Dr. Peter Burnham next month.
Galperin and his wife, Rochi, have two children, Mendel, 18 months, and Leah, four months. The family lived in Brooklyn until their recent move to Monmouth County.
“This community is warm, vibrant, thriving, and very welcoming,” Galperin said. “I was eager to find a place where we could fill a void and become established.
“My parents taught me how important it is to acquire knowledge and then help others learn,” he continued. “There’s an unbelievable sense of gratification when you help people grow, become more knowledgeable, and become better individuals.
“All of us have to improve ourselves, our schools, and our communities — but let’s start with ourselves.”
Additional information about the Chabad Jewish Center is available by calling 732-772-1998.