By Anna Streetman
The four Chabad chapters at the major universities from Kennesaw to Athens brought together more than 200 college students at Emory University on Friday, Nov. 20, for a “mega Shabbat.”
The night consisted of a four-course meal, Shabbat services and blessings, and a student from each university — Emory, Georgia, Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech and Georgia State (the last two share a Chabad center) — speaking on behalf of its Chabad.
Rabbi Zalman Charytan of Kennesaw State called it “a beautiful night and experience for the Jewish students in Georgia.”
According to the Jewish calendar, 5776 is the year of hahkel.
“Hahkel is the year of gathering and unity,” Rabbi Charytan said. “We figured it was a perfect time to get all the major Chabads together to share a Jewish experience together.”
Shifra Sharfstein, one of the co-directors of Chabad at Georgia Tech and Georgia State, said the unity at the Shabbaton was amazing, as was the students’ joy at being part of a community.
“The most amazing part of this event is seeing all the Jewish students with such diverse backgrounds come together in unity,” Sharfstein said. “They enjoy singing the same songs and are all so passionate about being part of Jewish life on campus. They loved the opportunity to socialize with a large Jewish community.”
Rabbi Michoel Refson of the UGA Chabad said: “On an average Friday night, there are over 400 students in the state of Georgia enjoying a home-cooked, four-course meal at their Chabad on campus. It only made sense to bring them all together for a shared experience.”
Julia Franklin, who is graduating from Georgia in May with a degree in psychology, was one of the student speakers. She spoke highly of the Shabbaton and her time with Chabad in Athens.
“During my four years at UGA, Rabbi Refson and Chana provided a wonderfully Jewish environment for myself and other students and a second home and family to us all,” Franklin said. “It was great to meet with other students and share our Chabad experiences. Rabbi Refson and Chana are truly doing a mitzvah and changing people’s lives.”
The mega Shabbat provided only a taste of what Chabad offers students on Georgia campuses. Chabad at Kennesaw State, for example, organized the first campus community chanukiah lighting on the Campus Green on the second night of Chanukah, and the UGA Chabad expected to hand out 200 Chanukah-themed “finals survival packs” on the fourth night. Each pack includes bagels and lox, gelt, and a menorah kit.