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I love Chabad... because they care.

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Howdy! It is that time of the year where Chabad at Texas A&M is having their annual match campaign. The theme is spreadthelight, so I'm going to talk about how Chabad has been one of the biggest and brightest lights in my life.

My experience in college would not have been the same if it wasn't for the Jewish Aggie family that Manya, Rabbi Yossi, and the kids foster.

When I think back over the 3.5 years I have been in college, I think of how Chabad has shaped my experience in the most positive way.

I think of all the delicious Shabbat meals surrounded by my closest friends, all the amazing educational opportunities I have been able to be a part of like Sinai Scholars and Birthright.

I think of all the matzoh-ball soup Manya makes when any Jewish Aggie is sick, all the hugs I have gotten when it's been a rough day or when it's been a great day, and most importantly, the unconditional love and support I have received from the day I walked through the door.

If you are able, please consider donating to Chabad's annual match campaign, because Chabad is the heart and soul of the Jewish Aggie Community at Texas A&M, and they have brought so much light and joy into my life and the lives of so many others.

 

My Sinai Scholars Experience

20141210_203910.jpgSinai Scholars has impacted me at the best time of my life. I am 22 years old about to graduate college. I have struggled with my jewish identity for the longest time. I never felt I belonged in my community growing up. Boys wouldn’t date me because I was Jewish and I never understood what even Judaism beliefs were. When people would asked what I believed, I never gave the correct answer. I knew about the holidays and culture such as, what food Jews like, we have Shabbat on Fridays instead of Sundays, and Hanukkah I get presents like Christmas, However, when they asked the meaning of all of it, I never knew the correct answer.

As a kid you don’t really question life, you just accept it. The main thing youIMG-20141216-WA0034.jpg learned from your parents was in order to survive on earth you are respectful to people, you eat and drink, and you go to school to get an education to be successful. This summer was my last summer before graduating college and I started questioning my purpose in life and had an identity crisis. I always knew I was a Jew, but I wasn’t sure what would happen to me if I died, why I was even born, was it all just by nature? Is there even a G-d? A Heaven? Will I ever get married? These were all questions I had trouble finding the answers to.

sam sternfeld.jpgI always felt at home when I was around Jewish people, so I never had trouble getting myself to be part of the community, but I would always tell people I’m not that religious. I go to temple for the people and the food. Sinai Scholars has eased my anxiety to a tee. From taking this class I have a great knowledge of my religion, my ancestry, my purpose in life, and the reason for existence. I no longer feel lost with these thoughts I use to obsess over. I am even more proud now to be a Jew.

The minute I stepped into Chabad before my sophomore year at A&M, I immediately began to feel at home and welcomed.  It’s almost fate that I was brought to this school. It sounds cheesy, but I believe G-d wanted me to be part of this community in order to get the guidance I needed.

20141210_204058.jpgMy biggest take away from this course is the amazing blessing it is to be Jewish and to be proud of who I am. I will marry jewish and be the biggest influence on my children so they will understand their purpose in life. My parents were great at raising me, but they never truly gave me insight on my identity as a Jew. I am glad to be able to carry on values and customs of the religion to the next generation. This has been a great course and I am grateful to have been able to share it with all of you. 


Sinai Scholars Society invites students to engage in an open community of study and self-discovery that will help them to become passionate, informed Jewish leaders on campus and in their respective communities. For more information visit SinaiScholars.com

My Birthright Trip

IMG_1038_compressed.jpgMy name is Evan and I was raised in Dallas, Texas. During my four years at Texas A&M, I was encouraged to participate in Birthright, but never applied. Senior year, I experienced a desire to visit the land of Israel. I spoke with Rabbi Yossi about the Taglit-Birthright trip with Mayanot (one of the major birthright providers) and he was extremely helpful, addressing all of my questions and concerns. 

After my trip in Israel, my friends back home asked, “what did you do?”   I responded, “what didn’t we do!” My visit to Israel was a whirlwind of thrills and new experiences. My favorite part of Birthright was our encounter with the Israeli soldiers. We bonded with the soldiers and gained an understanding of how they think. Their military service gives you a true appreciation for how important the State of Israel is to them and to all Jewish people in the world. 

IMG_1051_compressed.jpgBirthright was life changing. Not only was I able to experience the true beauty of Israel and connect with its people, but I was also able to reconnect with my own Judaism. Experiencing Israel not only makes for an exciting vacation, but also helps you to appreciate the miracle of Israel’s existence today. 

For those of you who are contemplating birthright, I strongly encourage you to apply. But don’t go until you’re ready, because it’s an experience that should be wholeheartedly embraced. This is the way I did my birthright experience and it far exceeded my expectations.

www.MayanotIsrael.com #MayanotIsrael

My #Israelinks Trip to Israel Summer

dan rosenfield 2.jpgWhen the forty college students from across the nation who signed up for IsraeLinks convened close to midnight at JFK airport on May 18th two weeks for our IsraeLinks journey. All we knew was there would be learning and touring in Israel...an amazing experience for sure, but we didn’t know much more.

Most of us on the trip had taken the Sinai Scholars course offered at our campus Chabads. Although those classes were insightful and encouraged us to challenge our beliefs and thoughts on Jewish texts, it wasn’t until IsraeLinks did those texts come alive, and I was able to take an in-depth look at what being Jewish really means in practice. I chose to sign up for IsraeLinks in order to immerse myself and be a more educated and inspired Jew so that when I came back to my community and my campus, I could be a more knowledgeable and prepared supporter of my Jewish community.

IsraeLinks is a two-week program where one week is spent in Tzfat, the birthplace of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, and the other week is spent in Jerusalem. These cities are very different from each other, so as a participant I was able to see Judaism practiced in unique ways in each of these cities. Every morning was spent learning in a classroom, where we explored topics and issues that were relevant to us as young Jews. These topics ranged from Jewish life cycles to rituals to relationships. The rabbis and rebbetzins who led the classes encouraged us to question the reasoning behind topics and issues and much to my surprise; I looked forward to each class every day. No question was off the table, and every class offered a different perspective on all kinds of aspects about Judaism.

The afternoons were usually spent touring a certain destination. During the first week, where we were based out of Tzfat, we traveled to the Rosh Hanikra’s grottos and explored massive tunnels. The massive geological formations were a fantastic first impression, accompanied by an afternoon spent bike riding along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Pictures on the internet and in books can only show a glimpse of the beauty of Israel, as that afternoon the views we experienced along the coast were absolutely stunning.

Another highlight of Tzfat was Shabbat evening with local host families. After services at the CRAZIEST synagogue you will ever go to, we were split into small groups, got away from the hustle and bustle of the week and our normal trip schedule, and walked to assigned families in the city who hosted us for dinner. The family, who had moved to Tzfat from New Jersey, I went to was incredibly hospitable, and my group and I were at their house past midnight discussing everything from college life to life in Israel; it was amazing to hear their story about why they moved and what they found special about the little city of Tzfat.

dan rosenfield 3.jpgFor the second week in Israel, we were based out of Jerusalem. One afternoon, we traveled to Chevron to see Machpelah, the tomb of our Jewish matriarchs and patriarchs. 

This structure, where every matriarch and patriarch except for Rachel, is buried, gave us an opportunity to see for ourselves and understand who the founders of our Jewish people are. No one knew what to expect for the next were given rare access to the city, which was ravaged with evidence of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. As we toured, we gained a greater appreciation for our Jewish communities back in the United States and understood even more why it is necessary to do everything we can to protect the state of Israel. That evening, we went to the local army base that was responsible for the protection of the city. Speaking with the soldiers made us realize that behind all the pride and celebration for Israel, it is a constant struggle.

Another day in Jerusalem, the boys and girls on the trip each went to their respective Mayanot yeshiva programs in the city. For part of our learning with Mayanot, the rules of kashrut that we were studying in the classroom came alive as we were given a behind-the-scenes tour of a few places in the shuk, or marketplace, including a kosher bakery and fish market, where we saw first-hand the importance of kashrut, and what made these kosher establishments Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Independence Day, was another exciting moment on the trip. All over the city that day, people were dressed in white and music was playing from every business. That afternoon, thousands from across the city gathered and walked together through the Old City of Jerusalem, chanting and singing, as we made our way to the Western Wall. Seeing the blue and white of thousands was inspiring and was a display of solidarity with all those who live, pray, and defend the city of Jerusalem and the state of Israel.

One of the coolest parts of IsraeLinks was the guest speakers from all walks of life that were brought in to share their stories and expertise. One of the guest speakers was named Tova Mordechai; she was raised by a Christian father and a closeted Jewish mother. While attending a strict Christian college, she explored her Jewish identity by eavesdropping at her local synagogue’s services, and today is an observant Jew living in Tzfat. It was fascinating to hear her story as well as the many others we spoke to at every stop we made in Israel. Each person we met had a fascinating life story, and the people with these incredible stories could only be found by traveling...or as it is more commonly said, “returning” to Israel, as the homeland of every Jew is the state of Israel.

This trip allowed for self-discovery of my Jewish identity and my neshama, or Jewish soul. Each destination and activity meant something different for each person on the trip, which made it a lot more special. By the end of the trip, the bond I had with the other trip mates was unbreakable because although we came from every corner of the United States, our Judaism was a connection that was unbreakable.

dan rosenfield.jpgI would recommend this trip for anyone who wants to learn more about themselves and their Jewish culture. The places I went to and the people I met could only happen in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and these experiences can be brought back and shared with my Texas A&M Jewish community. I came on IsraeLinks with a few dozen questions about Judaism, but I left with ten times that because over the two weeks I was in Israel, I was constantly exposed to new things and saw new avenues to look into. If you’ve been on Birthright and you want to go back to Israel, experience IsraeLinks...you won’t regret it.

Parents of the Year

Photo by Levik-125.jpgFour years ago, our oldest son left New Jersey for Texas A&M.  He didn't know too many people here, but he knew Jason Wise from years of regional USY; and he knew that Jason was involved with the Chabad On campus - a Chabad HOUSE led by a down-to-earth Rabbi, his dynamic wife and their six adorable children.  He immediately learned that this Chabad House is actually a Home for the hundreds of ״surrogate״ children who stream in and out of Yossi and Manya's House at literally all hours of the day and night - to cook, to eat, to study, to schmooze, to cry, to laugh and to love.

Anyone who spends even a few minutes in this House that the Lazaroffs Built is immediately drawn in by their warmth and caring, and their seemingly limitless capacity to be there for every member of the Aggieland Jewish community.  Somehow - their days have more than 24 hours. Somehow, there is always a plate of home-cooked food, an open heart, someone to listen/advise or pick you up, someone to teach without preaching....someone who lives an authentic Jewish life and wraps you into that life as seamlessly as if you were born into the family as another treasured Lazaroff child. 

We don't know how they do it; the sheer number of hours on their feet, and ALWAYS with kindness, humor and compassion, is simply daunting.  They ask nothing of us in return...but we owe them everything.  

The Parents of the Year are not Allison and David Nagelberg; they are Yossi and Manya.  Tonight is a tribute to them and to their phenomenal accomplishments over the last seven years. Yossi and Manya: we thank you, we love you, and we wish you continued strength and success as you build community here at A&M for years to come. 

 

Honoring My Parents

Photo by Levik-119.jpgWhat events and people in our lives make us the people that we are today? I think everyone would say that our parents play a huge role in shaping us as human beings. From even before we are born they care for us, and even after we leave their immediate care, they still care for us and about us. In fact, there is nothing that can truly stand between caring parents and their children. No amount of time, space, money, or anything else can come between the love and care that parents have for their children.

Today, I have the extreme honor and privilege of being able to say that this goes both ways.

When I left my parents’ house four years ago and drove with them to Texas, I was happy to get away. I figured that 1,600 miles was far enough away to get my folks off of my back. But it wasn’t. They would come down for football games, for Thanksgiving, for Passover, for NASCAR races, for Parents’ Weekend – whenever they could, they would find a way to get here. And over those four years, I grew closer to my parents despite the physical distance. Despite the miles that separated us, we grew stronger as a parent-child unit, and the things that are important to each of us grew more important to the other. And that is where the Chabad Jewish Center at Texas A&M enters the picture. I lived next door to Chabad for two years, but from the very moment I arrived on campus til today it has been my real home in Texas. My family instilled a Jewish education and a love for Judaism in me that my life would not be complete without, and having a Chabad house to help continue to nurture that has been invaluable, and my parents quickly realized that. Throughout my four years here they have come to view Chabad as a place where all Jewish students are welcome and loved for, and in their appreciation of this, my parents have donated of their time and money, time and again, to help grow this Chabad house. It is because of their continued and growing support and love for the Lazaroff family and all of the work that they do that I now have the utmost privilege of introducing my parents, Allison and David Nagelberg, as the Parents of the Year of the Texas A&M Chabad.

The Subar Report

Jackie Subar is currently in Israel for the summer! Here is what this Aggie has to say:

Howdy/Shalom!!!

Two Aggies at the Kotel On Yom Yerushalayim! Aside from the slight jet lag these past three days have been great. It’s so great to be back home in the eretz! Though I have come to Israel to pursue research with NGO Monitor (located near Ben Yehuda for those of you who know what I am talking about; yeah yeah you know the place!) I am in the Mayanot Institute for Jewish Studies in Katamon (a part of Jerusalem) for a couple of weeks. Katamon, for my Plano people out there, is home to an area that is sort of like the Jerusalem stone version of Shops at Legacy; aka beautiful, mamash (really)! Anyways, Mayanot is what they call a yeshiva (a place for Jewish studies) for women. Essentially some of the smartest, coolest people gather together to take classes and learn about what it means to be Jewish. In today’s day and age we have won the right to have a high education in secular academics, why not understand ourselves as Jewish women on the same level?! The girls here come from a large number of backgrounds. There is no dress code, everyone is on their  own level, and it is a ZERO pressure environment (like totally bro, what good is pressure, go push yourself not others!)~kinda feels like a Montessori yeshiva if those existed. So by hashgacha pratis (divine intervention---I mean who really believes in luck?) I ended up in Jerusalem just in time for Yom Yerushalayim (attached is a picture of me…I know you weren’t here so I had to make other friends). Honestly one of the coolest days ever. It is a celebration based on the reclaiming of Jerusalem by our awesome-kick-butt Israeli soldiers in the 1960’s. So much dancing, laughing, shouting, and crazy that it made Northgate look like the kiddie sandbox. I still don’t have a phone, something about unlocking it and getting a plan and it just is not coming together, but I did get an AMAZING Turkish bureka (still doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have a phone yet)---sidenote: there is a kosher McDonalds on Ben Yehuda though who wants to go there for icky chicken when you can go elsewhere is beyond me! Got to love all of the kosher food in Israel (though believe it or not kosher is harder in Israel than in America---yeah you want to know why? I am totally not launching into shemita an hour before Shabbos; go ask your LOR (Local Orthodox Rabbi/Rebbetzin). Okay need to go catch a bus to Ramat Shlomo “a large Jewish housing development in northern East Jerusalem…18,000-20,000 people and was captured in the Six Day War” (high-five Wikipedia!)---essentially a zillion Chabad Houses in one area (note: if you get the joke great!---like DON’T knocking on random Lubavitchers doors. You could get green dip and a joke but I don’t think they really know what that is in Ramat Shlomo; they’re more into the srug (a spicy spicy dip) and most recently Siracha (Rabbi Yossi your famous!)---but they do tell jokes and farbreng (literally a “gathering”---a bunch of people coming together to hang out, talk, and have DMCs (deep meaningful conversations)…or not; just don’t forget to bring a bottle of mashke (lit.vodka---see your LOR if you want deeper Chassidic insight). So now I’m sitting here in the beit midrash (essentially a house of study; where the books/some classes are) typing and eating a bag of klik (great chocolate thingys…like if American cereal were coated in chocolate…oh yeah it is). Shabbat around here starts around six I just found out, not eight like in Texas! So I’m only three days in, so many adventures to pursue, hiking to do, people to meet, and fun to be had. There is no place like Israel! Giving a shout out to all the Aggies back home and abroad! Wishing you a restful and enjoyable Shabbat! 

Shabbat Shalom Yall!

Subar

Hakarat Hatov: Showing Gratitude

Howdy !!!

Photo by Levik-90.jpgGood evening everyone, for those who don’t know me, my name is Joshua, I am the french guy with the weird accent. For those who do know me, you probably  know that I really don’t like speeches, but tonight I think like I have to say something.

I would like to talk about the Hakarat Hatov - also known as gratitude – or the necessity and ability to say thank you.

The Torah portion, Ki Savo contains the Mitzvah of bringing the First Fruits (Bikkurim) to the Bais HaMikdash (Temple in Jerusalem). The fruits are brought to the Kohen and their presentation is accompanied by a declaration expressing one's gratitude to God.

The Alshich a commentator, is bothered by a Medrash in Parshas Bereshis. The Medrash (in a play on words of the opening words of the Torah) states that the world was created for the sake of that which is called "Reishis" [first]: According to this midrash the world was created for the sake of the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, which is called "Reishis".

The Alshich asks why this Medrash states that the world was created for the sake of this mitzvah! What is the importance of this Mitsva? Why would Hashem create the world so that this Mitzvah could exist?!

The answer is that the Mitzvah of Bikkurim contains within it something that is fundamental to being a human being ­­ the obligation for people to express their gratitude and hakaras haTov. HaKaras haTov, the concept of gratitude, is so basic and primary that the whole world's creation was brought into actualization for just this mitzvah alone; this mitzvah which teaches us and trains us how to be gracious and thankful.

In fact, Jews begin their day with two words – Modeh Ani­, I thank you God for having given me the gift of life once more as I awake to the new day.

In our competitive, materialistic, society there seems to be little room for expressions of gratitude. But the Torah and all of Jewish tradition and its value system demand that we be grateful and thankful, not only in attitude but in our words and deeds as well .

Although sometimes saying ‘thank you’ seems difficult these words reflect powerful emotions and have an unbelievable impact upon the person to whom they are addressed. It is also wonderful to learn that another person is grateful and appreciative of what one has done for him or her.

A couple days ago I talked with a student who left College Station and she told me that now that she is out of College Station she misses it. It made me realize something, we have a tendency to understand that what we had was amazing only once its over.

Today we are sitting in the Sukkah, all together eating sushi for free. Every week Chabad give us the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat with free food, if we need to talk Manya and Yossi they are here for us, in fact Manya and Yossi are making our college experience a lot easier by providing to us a 'home away from home'.

So tonight i would like to say in the name of all the students thank you Manya and Rabbi Yossi for everything you guys have been doing for us.

Finally, I would like to add that sometimes action can be more meaningful than words . Every Friday night or even tonight when you come to Chabad the tables are set up, the food is already prepared, and everything looks perfect  but you need to remember that this was done by people putting in time and effort, you could contribute in your own way, by for example coming to help on Thursday night, or if you have a busy schedule just taking your plate and put it in the trash before leaving. By doing so, you will bring your own contribution to Chabad,  fulfill the Mitzva of hakarat hatov, and show your gratitude toward Chabad. Because at Chabad we are family.

Thanks and Gigem!

 

 *International student form Paris, France, Joshua Arrouas is a Grad Student at Texas A&M University studying for his Masters in Civil Engineering. 

Touching Down on Yom Kippur: Jewish Aggies Stick to Their Values

A sea of crimson and maroon pack the stands at Kyle Field, the third largest football field in Texas. The ever prized green grass turf, the newly painted white lines; first down, second, third, fourth. The teams pour out onto the field, jogging their way into the cacophony of shrieks, boos, and whoops. This was the event like no other, some would even say the chance of a lifetime. Was it really?

Since the founding of Texas A&M University in 1876, Texas A&M has been entrenched in long time traditions. These actions and cheers, this sense of alliance and belonging brings together the upperclassmen and the freshmen, the ‘reg’ and the cadet. It is here that many people find their voice, their place, among the sea of maroon and white. When the opposing team steps out onto the field, the Aggie fills with pride for their school and their tradition. In our second year in the SEC, The A&M v. Alabama game was a testament to Aggie commitment, to the team, and to football. How was our commitment as Jews?

The week leading up to the big game, also Yom Kippur, was a difficult time for some Jewish Aggies who grappled with this hard decision. For some like freshman Justin Katz, from Dallas, it was an easy choice to make. Justin said, “When I heard that the Alabama game was on Yom Kippur,  I  just said ‘oh well’ and brushed it off. The importance of Yom Kippur far exceeded the importance of one football game, at least in my eyes.” For a university student, especially at a school like Texas A&M, where college football is revered, it can take a lot for a student, who now has the independent right to choose whether or not to invest Jewishly and to invest spiritually. The concept of spirituality becomes even more muddled in today’s day and age where there is a tendency to look more towards physicality as an indicator of success. As Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff mentioned during our services at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Texas A&M University, “The true purpose of Yom Kippur is to remember who we are, where we come from, where we are heading, and to whom we owe gratitude.” Rabbi Yossi shared with us a story of an elderly Chassid, Reb Mendel Futerfas, who once passed a group of students who were sitting around before Yom Kippur reflecting upon all of the transgressions they had ever committed in the past year. Seeing this, he asked them instead to compile a list of all of the good G-d had done for them; in doing so they could then find out what they needed to improve upon. Reflecting upon all the good G-d has done for you and then finding ways to reciprocate the love and devotion. This Reb Mendel proclaimed, is the essence of Yom Kippur.

At the end of the Yom Kippur service we cry out “Shema Yisroel..!” proclaiming that G-d is One and shout only on this day, a line we normally whisper, “Blessed be the name of the glory of our King forever and ever!” This act of blessing G-d as he has blessed us, acknowledges that there is not only a relationship between the individual and G-d, but an inherent connection that can never be severed. On this Yom Kippur it was inspiring to see Aggies streaming into synagogue for the big day. According to Franceska Flax, an undergraduate from Los Angeles, “Yom Kippur means the beginning of a new year, [that] all of my mistakes, trials and tribulations from last year are alleviated so that I can look forward to this coming year with a fresh page.” These Aggies understood and acknowledged that fasting and going to the synagogue was not only about repentance and fasting, but about connections and relationships. The ties between one Aggie and another may be strong and for life, but the relationship between one Jew and another, between a Jewish Aggie and G-d, is eternal. Former student Naomi Heller of Dallas returned to Aggieland for Yom Kippur to celebrate with her fellow Jewish Aggies at the Chabad at Texas A&M.  “At its heart, Yom Kippur is the one day a year any Jewish soul can connect with G-d in the most pure, deeply intimate way. The climax of this authentic connection occurs during Neilah, when our soul reaches a state of absolute oneness with G-d. How could anyone exchange such an opportunity for a football game?” Heller said.

Wishing everyone a good year! Shana Tova!

 

*Jacqulyn Subar is a student at Texas A&M University pursuing her Masters in Public Policy at the George Bush School of Public Service and Administration.

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