Yaakov Freedman – Chabad.edu
The décor at the University of Central Florida’s Alumni Grand Ballroom was elegant; stylish black tablecloths covered scores of round tables and approximately 300 guests filled each of the ballroom’s three halls.
For a short while before the crowded ballroom erupted in a display of dancing and merriment, all eyes quietly focused on a bearded rabbi bent over a parchment scroll and writing with a feather quill.
“This is a very historic moment,” Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Chaim Lipskier offered by way of explanation. “The UCF Jewish community has never had its own Torah scroll before.”
As directors of the Tabacinic Jewish Student Center, Rivkie and Chaim Lipskier have quickly built a following among Orlando students with a variety of programs. Their attendance at the Torah completion and dedication ceremony underscored that fact; many clamored for the honor of dedicating a letter in the holy scroll and assisting the visiting ritual scribe in inking the last few lines.
“Rabbi Lipskier is really great,” said Ari Tow, a junior at UCF. “He’s all about pushing people at their own pace, getting them to where they want to go.
“I’m in my third year here,” continued Tow, who joined Lipskier and 34 other students at the annual Chabad on Campus International Student Shabbaton this weekend in Brooklyn, N.Y., “and I’m thinking of getting involved in an official capacity.”
According to Lipskier, Tow is not alone in his feelings. Each week, the couple welcomes an average of 200 students to the Chabad center for Friday night services and a traditional dinner.
“We really need to expand,” the rabbi said with a smile.
Students compared the excitement they felt during the dedication ceremony to the sort of atmosphere one would find at a wedding. People came from all over the world, some even flying in from Panama, to attend.
The prime sponsors of the new Torah were Rabbi Dovid and Henya Laine, who dedicated the scroll in honor of their parents and his 70th birthday. Jewish organizations across campus, including Hillel and the historically Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi also participated in the ceremony.
Guest speakers included Moshe Pelli, director of UCF’s Jewish Studies department; political science professor Susan Fine, who serves as the Chabad center’s student group’s faculty advisor; and Rabbi Sholom Dubov, director of Chabad of Greater Orlando. The university’s Student Government Association co-sponsored the event.
After the ceremony, guests stayed on for a buffet dinner and video presentation.
“We’re all friends here,” Lipskier said, noting the turnout. “People like spending time with their friends.”