RABBI YAAKOV GREENBERG, who serves as Chabad of the Shore’s outreach director at Monmouth University, says he is committed to “bringing Judaism to life” on the West Long Branch campus.
Greenberg and his codirector — his wife Rivki — offer a wide array of social, educational, and spiritual programs for students. “We have a zero pressure, total pleasure approach, and we work hard to make sure that all students, regardless of their background, affiliation, and level of observance, feel warmly welcomed,” Greenberg said.
The Greenbergs host holiday parties and up to 20 students each week for “Friday Night Live” Shabbat dinner at their home, a short walk from campus.
Chabad offers a monthly Jewish Business Network, where students meet local Jewish businesspeople over dinner; a Tuesday night discussion series; a “Bake ’Em and Take ’Em” hallah-baking class; and a Wednesday pizza “lunch and learn.”
Each semester about 25 MU students join a community Shabbaton at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, and Chabad at MU has also taken more than 25 students on a free trip to Israel through the Taglit-Birthright Israel Mayanot program. The third trip will be held this summer.
Engaging students through meaningful Jewish experiences provides a sort of spiritual insurance, said Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, director of Chabad of the Shore in Long Branch. “In order for there to be a Jewish tomorrow, our students need to have a Jewish today,” he said.
One “regular” at Chabad events is Micah Freedman, a sophomore from West Orange. “When I first got to campus,” he said, “I was sometimes the only student at the Greenbergs’ Shabbat dinner. Participation has grown exponentially, and we are creating a very good identity for ourselves on campus. It’s amazing how Judaism can bring so many people together.”
Shira Shecht, a sophomore from Pardesiya, Israel — who is attending the university on a full basketball scholarship — said, “When I first came here I wasn’t aware of the whole Jewish community, and I didn’t know any other Jewish people. I met a lot of people at Chabad, and started to attend events. I feel like I have so many more friends now.”
“Bringing Judaism to life for students during the four critical years of college helps keep Jewish traditions alive,” Greenberg said. “For me, it’s an honor to do what the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson, taught us: to bring Jews together in a positive and spiritual place. It’s my dream come true; I live it and I love it.”