It is the goal of every Shliach: to impact as many Jews as possible. The simple reality is that Shluchim are human–and limited. No matter how hard he or she works, it’s simply impossible to reach every Jew in their locale. It is for this reason that the Rebbe constantly taught a doctrine of “a Chassid is a lamplighter”—to transform community members into lamplighters in their own right, further expanding the circle of influence like a ripple that reaches infinite corners of the sea.
For Shluchim and Shluchos on college campuses, this is particularly poignant, as they operate in tight social environments of many like-minded and similarly-aged people. In fact, most campus Shluchim already engage a board of student leaders to help with this endeavor. Chabad on Campus International saw an opportunity to bring these student leaders together by creating a global leadership community to offer additional support, inspiration, and networking for these students, much like Shluchim themselves have.
With so many campus variables ranging from size, region, how long and how many Shluchim service that campus, the educational style, the social environment, etc., it required exhaustive research and data analysis to determine a reasonable plan.
Thus, “UPWARD” was born, a program that kicked off this past week at a leadership summit hosted in New York City. Over the course of two days, twenty student leaders hand-picked by their Shluchim from ten different campuses around the country convened for an intense summit of workshops, Farbrengens, and leadership training and exercises that highlighted Chabad values and explored methods to engage the maximum number of students possible.
The program will continue with virtual convenings throughout the year, during which these student leaders will receive additional training and brainstorm ideas together. They will also receive grants along the way from Chabad on Campus International for engagement initiatives conceived together.
“The summit itself was a whirlwind of inspiration, camaraderie, and instruction,” says Rabbi Shlomie Chein, VP of Student Engagement at Chabad on Campus International & Shliach at the University of S. Cruz. For each individual student leader to meet and connect with others doing the same thing all across the country reinforced the idea that we’re all in this together, so much greater and more powerful than just one individual. A deeply personal Farbrengen with Rabbi Dov Yonah Korn of Chabad of the Bowery, who also hosted the summit, was the cherry on top of the already sweet cake.
Throughout the summit, students heard from Chabad on Campus leadership, including Rabbi Avi Weinstein, COO of Chabad on Campus International, Rabbi Shlomie Chein, VP of Student Engagement, Thom Waye, Chief Strategy Officer, Motivational Speaker, Kivi Bernhard, as well as members of the Chabad on Campus International advisory board, Dr. Gary and Mrs. Pam Ostrow. Hearing from these successful lay leaders how they integrated Chabad values into the mainstream world was especially meaningful.
As Mark from the University of Pittsburgh said, “The Upward experience made me feel as if I was given true light to my mission. I felt as though every moment was giving me inspiration to continue this message. All I want to do back on campus is to give others the inspiration that I felt and spread Judaism throughout every Jew I can find!”
“The next frontier of campus Shlichus is to once and for all really connect every single Jewish student–bar none,” said Rabbi Yossy Gordon, CEO of Chabad on Campus International. “With an effective student leadership cohort in place, with G-d Almighty’s help, we’ll be well on our way to getting there.”