Campus Chabad House Directors Attend Connecticut Conference
By Tamar Runyan, Chabad.edu
Hundreds of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries serving college campuses from around the world have gathered at the Hilton Stamford Hotel and Executive Meeting Center in Connecticut for the 11th annual Chabad on Campus International Emissaries Conference that ends yesterday.
“We’re having the biggest conference ever,” reported Rabbi Asher Yaras, chairman of this year’s event. “There are more than 150 families from all over the world here from as far away as Australia.”
Yaras, who together with his wife Devorah Leah Yaras directs Chabad House on Campus serving colleges in and around Rochester, N.Y., explained that the high attendance reflects both the quantitative and qualitative growth of the global network.
“We are growing by leaps and bounds and we are getting better and better at networking worldwide,” he said.
When a student goes away for a semester abroad, he noted by way of example, his or her campus Chabad House directors contact their colleagues at the student’s destination. That way, the student can feel more at home, wherever he or she may be.
“The transition is seamless because they get the same love that they receive from their campus Chabad House back home,” said Yaras.
The conference, which is coordinated by the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, cements and expands on those global relationships, added the rabbi, and also provides some much-needed recharging for families who are focused on strengthening Jewish life 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Getting together is enriching, enlightening, energizing, and inspiring,” said organizer Nechoma Dina Dubrowski, coordinator of special events for the Chabad on Campus International Foundation. “It’s coming home to our core so we can be centered, and appreciate the enormity of our mission.”
Beginning on Monday, the conference has kept a busy schedule, packing agendas with workshops, lunch table discussions, dinner programs and general sessions. Meanwhile, emissaries’ children have been participating in a special day camp where they can socialize and share their own experiences growing up in a college environment.
Topics throughout the conference range from improving Friday-night planning and maximizing alumni development to fundraising.
“Everything is really upgraded,” said Rivka Rochel Liberow, co-director of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Student Center serving Florida Atlantic University, Lynn University, and Palm Beach Community College in Boca Raton. “The workshops are a lot about upgrading our Chabad Houses financially, parenting, and focusing on our children.”
The highlight of the conference comes at tonight’s session, during which emissaries have the opportunity to bring supporters, students and parents who can see firsthand how Chabad on Campus has grown and share innovations for the future.
Liberow described tonight’s event as “a celebration of Jewish life on campus.” She’s bringing a student who has been supporting the Chabad House financially for the past couple of years.
Yaras is also looking forward to the event and the unveiling of new programs for the coming year.
“We are launching a new Torah initiative, bringing learning to a new level,” said Yaras, pointing out that while students have the mindset for studying, their course loads can sometimes make concentrating on additional material burdensome.
“We have to make this studying stand out, special, relevant and exciting,” said Yaras, who said that some of the topics will include business and medical ethics, Talmud 101, making the weekly Torah portion relevant, and running a kosher kitchen with a non-Jewish roommate.
In addition, Yaras said the popular Sinai Scholars Society – a joint initiative of Chabad on Campus and the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute – is being updated and committees are enhancing programming at the International Jewish Student Shabbaton hosted by Chabad on Campus in Brooklyn, N.Y., each fall.
For his part, Yaras is very excited for the coming year: He and his wife will finally be able to make kosher food available on the campus meal plan in their new 6,000 square foot building just a few hundred feet from the university. For the past eight years, the couple has been operating out of their home a mile and half from campus.
“Our dream is finally coming to fruition,” said Yaras.