Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone and Hillel Executive Vice President Ralph Grunewald recently attended the Chabad Shluchim Kinus in Stamford, CT at the invitation of Rabbi Menachem Schmidt of the University of Pennsylvania. More than 75 shluchim, their wives and children were also in attendance.
When introducing Firestone, Rabbi Schmidt mentioned that the relationship between Chabad and Hillel goes back many years, and cited a meeting between several Hillel rabbis and the Rebbe on March 7, 1960. Schmidt quoted from the Rebbe’s remarks at that meeting: “Everyone counts. No Jew is expendable. We all must work to the fullest capacity, every one of us. In our day-to-day life we must use our full strength to add to the side of good, and by this we will gain a life of happiness and harmony – and all this can be done only through a life of Torah and Mitzvos tested by our 3,500 year history. This obligation lies upon every Jew and G-d has given him the power to carry this through successfully.” The audience applauded warmly after he read this quote.
In his remarks, Firestone said Hillel and Chabad share a common goal: to touch the lives of Jews on campus and to strengthen their Jewish identity. He received a standing ovation for his thoughtful remarks at dinner.
Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive director of Chabad on Campus, said that Chabad, currently on 115 campus across the US, and an additional nine abroad, reaches more than 5,000 students every Shabbat during the school year and distributed thousands of chanukiyot this year. Additionally, Chabad and Mayanot have brought 3,200 young adults to Israel on Taglit-birthright israel this past year. “We helped one person tens of thousands of times,” he said.
Chabad rabbis go to these campuses and stay indefinitely; some have been on their campuses for 20 years or more. New Chabad houses will be established on the following campuses during the next academic year: Univ. of Illinois at Chicago; Santa Monica College; Reed College; Texas A & M; Univ. of West Virginia; Temple University; College of New Jersey; Union College and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
George Rohr – whose family is a major supporter of Chabad on Campus – also underscored the importance of Hillel’s presence at the Kinus. Referring to Firestone’s remarks, Rohr emphasized the importance of both groups in touching the lives of every Jew on campus.
Not surprisingly, there is so much more that brings Hillel and Chabad together than separates us, said Grunewald.
Both groups acknowledged a concern about Jewish identity and the challenges posed by lack of funding. But discussing the question, “How did we touch the lives of Jewish students this year?” will build bridges between us, said Firesone.