Chabad empowers Jews on campuses during pro-Palestinian protests

The protesters harassing Jewish students on college campuses got it all wrong. They want to intimidate students into silence and invisibility. Yet, the opposite is happening.

Chabad houses on campus are overflowing. Thousands of Jews from all walks of life are coming to learn more about their Judaism – seeking camaraderie, comfort, knowledge, and a feeling of belonging.

The best way to defeat antisemitism is by leaning into our Judaism, living a Jewish life, and observing mitzvot (good deeds) to refine this world and make it a holier and kinder place. 

The best way to expunge darkness is by adding light. Every proud Jew on campus is a message to every radical: We are not going anywhere. If anything, thanks to the mob, we are growing stronger and prouder than ever.

Stronger than ever despite the mob

Chabad on Campus families are called shluchim – messengers – because they are ambassadors of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Their job is to bring the joy, spirituality, and depth of Judaism to Jews. 

RABBI MENACHEM MENDEL SCHNEERSON of Lubavitch at a Lag Ba’omer parade in Brooklyn, 1987. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Many of them embark on this journey as young, newly married couples and go on to raise their children to be a part of this important mission. 

They leave the comforts of their communities, where kosher food is accessible and Jewish schools are nearby, to be there for the Jewish students on campus.

That can come in the form of lighting Shabbat candles on Friday night or learning how to connect with God through prayer. It can be a warm, welcoming meal on Rosh Hashanah or a profound lesson about the true purpose of one’s soul in this world.

In the past few months, these young families have become inadvertent advocates on the frontlines of the battle for Judaism on college campuses. 

They have stood by students in the face of vile protests, providing them with critical moral support and assisting them through legal means. 

Whatever the need, Chabad shluchim rise to the challenge, providing a home away from home for Jewish students who need it now more than ever.

With everything shluchim on campus have experienced over the past few months, Chabad on Campus decided to hold its annual convention in Israel this year. 

Instead of getting together at a hotel in New Jersey, we are witnessing Jewish pride and resilience firsthand in the Holy Land.

Husbands and wives will attend separately because many leave large, young families at home. The wives, or shluchot, will attend first, many bringing young babies with them.

A babysitting program will support the over 175 women attending. They come from all over the world – from Argentina to the United States, Europe, and Asia.

They will participate in a complete program that includes visiting wounded IDF soldiers, seeing Sderot near the Gaza border, talking to Jewish students studying in Israel, connecting with their fellow shluchot on campus in Israel, and learning from each other’s experiences.

They will return to campus armed with real-life stories and facts about what is happening in Israel. They will hear from mothers bringing new Jewish babies into the world while their husbands fight in Gaza, and from wounded soldiers who risked their lives to protect others.

They will see how Israelis are defeating darkness with the light of living proudly and resolutely as Jews.

An alumnus living in Israel recently contacted his Chabad shlucha from college to check on her family’s safety. 

On this note, shluchot from overseas will also share with their Israeli counterparts the resiliency Jewish students have shown over the past few months in the face of unprecedented hate.

Life on campus has become frightening at times. While we prioritize physical safety and do everything we can to protect students, continuing our way of life will guarantee our survival as a people.

When Columbia University was aflame with protests during Passover, Chabad hired additional security to ensure students could attend and celebrate the holiday while away from their families. 

It wasn’t just about taking a stand – it was also about partaking in the timeless traditions and rituals that have stayed with Jews throughout centuries of persecution. These traditions and rituals will keep the flame of Judaism alive for generations to come.

We hope to strengthen this flame for shluchim by hosting our annual convention in Israel next week. 

The more inspired and empowered these leaders are, the more they can be a source of strength for students on campus. 

The remarkable shluchim on campuses globally will continue inspiring, guiding, and teaching – because the best way to fight darkness is with the light of Jewish life.

The writer is COO of Chabad on Campus International.

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