Brooklyn Couple Create Home Away from Home for Jewish Chapman Students
For many new students, the transition from home to college is a journey of self-discovery. Their inquiring minds are exposed to new ideas, to fresh perspective, and they’re afforded the freedom to pursue their dreams. In addition to academic pursuits, many students find in college the beginning of journey to connect with their heritage. Such a journey, however, can be difficult to undertake.
That is why Rabbi Eliezer and Mushky Gurary moved across the country with their one-year-old son Yosef and newborn daughter Mirel to establish Chabad at Chapman Jewish student center earlier the year. The Gurarys both hail from Brooklyn, NY and have previously studied and served Jewish Communities across the country and around the world.
Eliezer, 26, who comes from a family of 6, studied and taught at Rabbinical schools in Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Chicago, Morristown NJ and Brunoy, a suburb of Paris, France. He also spent summers visiting inmates in prions across the country, and served as a “Roving Rabbi” in Florida and Ontario Canada. Gurary also twice led Passover Seders in Dresden Germany.
Mushky, 24, who is one of eight, went to school in New York and Israel and was head counselor of Jewish summer camps in Connecticut and Zurich, Switzerland.
“We see our center as being a home away from home for Jewish students,” Rabbi Gurary said. “Whether it’s to study, to celebrate a Jewish holiday, or simply to lend an ear, our home is always open to Chapman students’ needs.”
Chabad at Chapman—an affiliate of Chabad on Campus, an international network of over 250 Chabad centers on college campuses worldwide—is modelled on the Chabad approach: Offering a traditional Jewish experience in a relevant and contemporary way. Chabad centers are known for their inclusive approach and welcoming environment, making them a driving force of Jewish outreach worldwide.
Chabad is a 17th century Chassidic movement, and traces its history back to the Baal Shem Tov, the acclaimed Chassidic master. It’s early 1940’s move to America saw its approach shift toward Jewish outreach, and—under the leadership of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson the late Chabad Rebbe—grew into an international organization with thousands of centers worldwide. Chabad Rabbis, known colloquially as “Shluchim”, are sent to the most remote of Jewish locations, where they dedicate their lives to establishing Jewish communities and cultivating Jewish life.
“The Rebbe encouraged his followers to dedicate their lives to spreading the message of Judaism,” explained Gurary. “We’re honored to be a part of this mission, and we look forward to helping cultivate a strong Jewish community here at Chapman”.
They’ve only had a brief tenure so far, but Chabad at Chapman has already hit the ground running. They’ve hosted weekly Shabbat dinners and services, held large events for Jewish holidays, led educational Jewish courses, coordinated Jewish student clubs and are in the midst of planning a student trip to Israel.
Esther Levenson who graduated from Chapman in May is amazed at how quickly Chabad established itself on campus, “Typically for new organizations it is difficult to gain a regular attendance at events, however from the very first Shabbat dinner there has been a large turnout and constant support.”
She attributed Chabad’s success to its openness. “Chabad has made such a difference because it is a place where no one is judged, and everyone is brought together to observe from a traditional sense and find his or her place in the religion, whatever that may be. This is more than just a club or organization, but it is a people. It is a mission of inclusivity, inspiration, and commitment to one another. I have made lifelong friends through the events Chabad has held, and feel deeply connected to its growth at Chapman.”
Rabbi Gurary describes his inspiration as coming from a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, the 17th century founder of the Chassidic movement. “A soul may descend from its place high in the heavens down into this world for 70–80 years,” the Baal Shem Tov would say, “just to do a favor for another—whether materially or spiritually.”
“We want students to know we’re here for them,” said Mushky Gurary. “The atmosphere at Chabad is non-judgmental, welcoming, accepting, caring, warm and loving. When one walks through the door, our goal is for them to feel completely welcomed.” More information can be found on their website: http://www.jewishchapman.com/
Chabad is open 24-hours a day for students’ need and can be reached at: Rabbi@JewishChapman.com
Chabad at Chapman also service Three other universities: California State University Fullerton, Rancho Santiago Community College and Fullerton College.