Hundreds of Jewish Collegians Camp Out Near UC Irvine
|Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, center, of the Chabad House at UCLA and Jewish basketball player Tamir Goodman, second from right, party with Jewish students at the annual West Coast Jewish Student Summit.|
Brianna Lerman had a rare opportunity one recent weekend. The California Polytechnic State University junior traveled from S. Luis Obispo to Costa Mesa to attend the West Coast Jewish Student Summit with 250 of her peers. Long involved in the Jewish community throughout her prior schooling, Lerman enjoyed the chance to speak Hebrew, talk about Israel, and reflect on Judaism and Jewish values.
“There aren’t a lot of Jews in S. Luis Obispo, so I love that aspect of it, just being around and meeting other Jewish people,” she detailed.
Sponsored by regional campus Chabad-Lubavitch centers and the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, the ninth-annual retreat brought together students from 24 schools from Arizona, California and Nevada to connect future Jewish leaders with their peers. Students participated in lectures and workshops on Israel advocacy, Jewish identity and issues related to Jewish student life on campus.
The late February gathering was co-sponsored by Swagbucks, Nick Trading International, and City Glatt, and was made possible through partnerships with the Zeta Beta Tau, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Alpha Mu fraternities.
Lerman said highlights included a Saturday night barbecue and carnival, and the chance to hear from Tamir Goodman, an observant Jewish basketball player known as “the Jewish Jordan.”
“I loved his talks,” she said. “Just the way he spoke was really inspiring, and he was a really nice, down to earth guy. It was awesome.”
Lerman added that she left motivated to learn more about Judaism and to try out different aspects of it for herself.
“It inspires me to try to keep the Sabbath and to try to pray, to try to do all those things,” she said.
Rabbi Moshe Dubrowski, director of operations for the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, said the event has become a model for other regional Jewish weekends.
“It was wonderful to see students from varied backgrounds and cultures all come together for this event,” he said. “They were really inspired by the guest presenters and each other.”
Daniel Narvy, a sophomore at the University of California, Irvine, said he made friends that he’s spoken to on a nearly daily basis. He was additionally impressed by the programming, which unlike other weekend programs he has been on drew students out of their rooms. He said he appreciated the chance to ask questions at will to knowledgeable rabbis, and the way they dealt with relevant campus issues. Everyone was comfortable and given the chance to learn, he said, and not only to learn, but to have fun with hundreds of other college students over the weekend.
Students left with a renewed sense that Judaism can be fun, he explained, and with the desire to be passionate about their Judaism, regardless of how they grew up.
“It was all of us in one big hotel for Friday night services up until mid-Sunday, and it was just a bunch of enthusiastic college kids excited about being Jewish,” said Narvy.
|Brianna Lerman, left, is a junior at California Polytechnic State University.|
Rabbi Chaim Leib Hilel, director of Chabad of Cal Poly, brought students for the third year in a row, and took a turn running the event.
“We had nice attendance,” he said of events during the weekend. “A lot of people put in an effort getting the word out and telling people when and where to be. And the speakers themselves drew a crowd.”
Joshua Berookhim, who graduated last June from UCI, came to the weekend with a handful of friends, some of whom, like him, missed it last year when they were seniors.
“I never had a chance to go during my undergrad,” he said.
Basketball player Tamir Goodman’s message really resonated with him, he said, explaining how Goodman always kept his religion close to his heart, no matter what anyone said. “And that’s something I do as well.”
Berookhim saw old friends and made new ones, and said he know they’ll be faces he’ll see again.
“We’re thrilled so many young people could make it out for the event,” stated Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive vice president of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, “and that it means so much to them. They can go back to their schools feeling proud of themselves and their heritage.”
Rabbi Zevi Tenenbaum from the UCI Chabad House said he was glad to have been able to have the event just off-campus, and to send the message that Judaism is flourishing at UCI.
“It was very exciting for us, that people could get a taste of Jewish life at UCI,” he said. “This event is all about Jewish unity, pride, and the strengthening of Jewish identity. The rest is just icing on the cake.”