University students gathered at a South Florida Jewish center this week to receive a free case and parchment in keeping with a biblical command to inscribe verses proclaiming the Almighty’s unity “upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.”
The kosher mezuzah giveaway at the Tabicinic Chabad-Lubavitch Student Center in Boca Raton drew 12 students from nearby Florida Atlantic University, Lynn University and Palm Beach Community College. The Monday effort, which was sponsored by philanthropists Joseph and Lisa Bensmihen, came as part of the organization’s annual dinner.
“I was so happy when I got the mezuzah,” beamed Marcia Lawrence, a first-year FAU nursing student who hails from Chicago. “It was actually my first mezuzah. I felt great. I put it on my dorm door. I kiss it each time I walk in.”
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Chabad Student Center directors Rabbi Boruch Shmuel and Rivka Rochel Liberow said that this is the fourth year in a row that they’ve provided free mezuzahs to students.
“The students just came back from the summer break and since they just moved in, we want them to have mezuzahs,” stated the rabbi.
For students like Lawrence, who is one of the few Jewish residents of her dorm, the mezuzah helps them “stay proud,” she said.
But at the dinner, “it wasn’t just the mezuzahs that were inspiring,” added Lawrence. “It was also the speeches and the fact that everyone got together. I heard about different ways of looking at Judaism that I never thought of before. I’m so glad I went.”
The program was held at the Liberow home, which also serves as the Chabad Student Center’s premises. Pointing to the center’s warm atmosphere, Lawrence said she “definitely” plans on staying connected.
Eli Sirota, a sophomore at Lynn University majoring in sports management, serves as the student center’s president. He, too, received a mezuzah.
“I’ve been meaning to get one for a while for my doorpost,” he said. “It was a great event. It’s my second year being involved with Chabad on campus. They made me feel at home.”
Students show off their new mezuzahs.
Sirota, who grew up in Kingston, Pa., has met several Jewish students in his dormitory.
“Some have already walked by and said it’s an awesome mezuzah,” he said. “They’re motivated now, after seeing mine.”
Indeed, “it’s an ongoing project,” Joseph Bensmihen explained. “Twelve kids took a mezuzah [at the event], but more will come later on.
“It’s easy to put a mezuzah on the door,” he continued. “It’s non-threatening. It doesn’t take time away from studies or activities but it allows them to identify better [as Jews].”
For the Bensmihens, though, the “thought behind the project is much larger, more global,” he emphasized, referring to the biblical account of the Plague of the Firstborn in Egypt. Jewish homes, which could be identified by lamb’s blood placed on doorframes’ lintels, were spared.
“G-d didn’t need help to identify them,” Bensmihen acknowledged. “The message is that G-d wants us to participate. Judaism is a religion of deed.”
The event honoured the memory of Max Richards, nephew of the Bensmihens and a former student at Lynn University.
“It’s important for students away from home not to lose their identity,” said Lisa Bensmihen, who as a student promised the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, that she’d hand out mezuzahs to friends. “I started doing it in college myself.”