Jewish and secular members of Rowan community converge at annual mega-Sabbath

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A growing Rowan campus and a growing Jewish community: at Shabbat 180, Rowan’s second annual mega-Sabbath Jewish dinner, that theme was evident.

With the tune of ancient rhythms in the air, Rowan’s chapter of the international Jewish organization Chabad hosted a crowd of about 180 Jewish and non-Jewish people on Saturday night. The group converged in the Student Center Eynon Ballroom to sing, talk and engage in what Chabad’s rabbi, Hersh Loschak, termed, “The most important ritual in Judaism: eating.”

And indeed, there was a lot of food. Items served included chicken, salad and deserts, along with more traditional Jewish foods such as challah bread and gefilte fish.

Although there’s been a Jewish community on campus for many years, including members of the secular Hillel club, Rowan’s recent growth and the fall 2013 opening of a Chabad House near the Triad Apartments have led to an uptick in Jewish activities.

“The Jewish presence at Rowan has grown immensely,” said Kyle Nobel, a history major who graduated in 2015 and came back to Rowan for the gathering.

With the opening of Chabad on campus, Nobel now feels Jewish students have “a home and a sense of pride.”

Fun Fact: The “Ch” in Chabad originates from the Hebrew word ד”בח and is pronounced like a person clearing their throat, not the customary English “ch” sound.

Unlike traditional synagogues and churches, the Chabad model works by stationing Orthodox rabbis in single-family homes around the world. The rabbis build up the Jewish community in their location through events and services in the house, or in community settings like Rowan’s student center.

This lets Chabad remove many of the overhead costs associated with running a full synagogue building. It has also allowed the movement to open up in areas where there are smaller Jewish communities or where low attendance might pose an existential threat to traditional synagogues and churches.

According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report The Chabad Lubavitch Movement: Filling the Jewish Vacuum Worldwide, more than 1 million Jews attended Chabad services at least once a year, making Chabad one of the most successful Jewish movements in the world.

“We wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere where we all come together,” Rabbi Loschak said. “Something to counteract all the bitterness we’ve seen lately in the country.”

Loschak will continue running prayer services on Friday nights and other Jewish holidays. He is also working to organize a trip to Israel; a subsidized Rowan Chabad visit to Holocaust sights in Eastern Europe recently took place.

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