Rivkie Lipskier, co-director of the Chabad of University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., arrived in New York City with 31 students Thursday. Amazingly, the transportation difficulties set in motion by Hurricane Sandy did not affect them.
“We were lucky. Our flight went, but the later flights were cancelled,” she said.
Groups like those led by Lipskier pushed ahead to post-hurricane New York to attend this weekend’s Chabad on Campus International Student Shabbaton and Conference, an annual gathering of Jewish students and Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries that aims to strengthen Jewish pride among the next generation of leaders.
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Earlier this week, a posting on the event’s website alerted participants that the weekend was still on. The Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, where the Shabbaton students are staying with host families, did not lose power, and crews quickly removed downed trees.
This represents the fifth year for Lipskier to accompany students for what she called an “awesome, life-changing weekend.” Though lower Manhattan remains inaccessible, students will still be able to attend programs at Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn and visit Times Square in midtown Manhattan.
“The roads are fine,” said Lipskier. “It doesn’t look like anything happened. We were really spared.”
Sara Levy, 21, has been to New York before, but this is her first time visiting as part of a Sabbath weekend program.
“It’s nice so far,” she said. Though some participants dropped out just before the trip because of Hurricane Sandy, she was thankful she still got to come, and is eager to connect with peers from other schools.
“I’m looking forward to meeting other students that are really involved at Chabads at other colleges,” she said.
Each year, the Shabbaton brings nearly 1,000 college students to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y. (File photo)
A key part of the event is a service component for students to help out in hurricane recovery efforts throughout the city. The Shabbaton similarly began with a prayer for Sandy’s victims.
“These students are our future Jewish leaders,” said Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive vice president of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation. “They have rallied not only to the call to strengthen Jewish life on campus, but to help out their fellow global citizens as well.”
This is the third Shabbaton for Noah Miller, 21. A college senior, he wanted to make sure and take advantage of his last opportunity to come.
“I come back every year for the same reason: to understand why it is that there are around 3,300 Chabad Houses around the country, and why these [emissaries] do what they do every year, and basically devote their lives to Jewish education for every Jew,” explained Miller.
He said he appreciates community members opening their homes, and was excited for a Friday night dinner with his host family. Getting a chance to hear and understand different families’ stories over the years is a highlight, he said. “And they love hearing about us, why we’re coming, and what we do in school.”
Nicole Erdfrocht, 22, reunited with friends from a Chabad-coordinated Israel trip at the event last year, and also met her two best friends when they were rooming with the same host family.
Though she’s not sure what trains are running, she said she’s not worried about the weather and was glad to hear Crown Heights was bustling after the storm. She was revving up for Friday afternoon’s program, where students from various contingents will all gather.
“It’s just amazing to see everyone come together one time during the year,” she said.