500 Jewish Students Expected At Southeastern Campus Conference


by Fay Kranz Greene - GAINESVILLE, FL

March 17, 2004

The cell phones are racking up lots of overtime minutes in the offices and homes of the Chabad rabbis who work on college campuses in the Southeast. For the past several months, the region’s five full time campus rabbis and their wives have been coordinating the second annual Chabad Lubavitch Southeastern Campus Leadership Conference with assistance from the Ufaratzta Fund of the Chabad-Lubavitch National Campus Foundation, to take place March 26-28 in Gainesville, Florida.

The event is expected to bring together over 500 Jewish students and faculty from ten universities in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, for a Shabbat experience dedicated to “Jewish Unity, The Key To Our Survival.” The annual event is organized by the Chabad Lubavitch Southeastern Campus Alliance.

Chabad Rabbis Berel Goldman, University of Florida in Gainesville; Zalman Lipskier, Emory University; Yochanan Rivkin, Tulane University; Schneur Oirechman, Florida State University in Tallahassee; and Mendy Felig, University of Miami, have been working tirelessly for the past several months to coordinate this landmark event, at a time of intensifying anti-Jewish sentiment on college campuses nationwide. It is estimated that these ten universities have a combined total of 19,000 Jewish students.

Rabbi Goldman, whose Lubavitch Jewish Center in Gainesville is hosting the conference, says that “our initial goal last year was to get the Jewish student leaders at all of these campuses together to inspire them to greater heights in their efforts to connect with the Jewish kids. That scope has widened to include Jewish students from any Southeastern campus who would like to attend. We invite them to spend a Shabbat together, share ideas and resources, see the energy that exists within each campus, and hopefully to feel linked to their collective Judaism.” The entire weekend is free to the students and will include all Shabbat meals, services, speakers and entertainment by the Chassidic Reggae Master.

Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin from Tulane University is bringing 15 students for the first time. “It’s a long eight hour drive for us” he says “but the students are excited about spending Shabbat with so many others.” Rivkin hosts about 50 students every Friday night for meals and services at his Chabad House near the Tulane campus.

University of Tallahassee’s Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, who is bringing 25 students to the conference, is also excited about the opportunity and the “boundless potential” that such a weekend can provide. “We already have a group of students that have become Sabbath observant and spend the entire Shabbat with us” Oirechman says “and this weekend is a way of cementing that commitment.”

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