Rabbi Yossi and Dalia Kulek’s Chabad House had been serving as a haven for University of Hartford students after a freak fall snowstorm sent upwards of 1 million New Jersey, New York and Connecticut residents into darkness last weekend. But with power still out for hundreds of thousands in New England, those who camped en masse with the Kuleks woke up this Wednesday to find the lights there had also gone dark.

Sophomore Eric Leiderman and more than a dozen other students had been helping cook, clean up, and babysit at the Chabad Chevra, an on-campus Chabad-Lubavitch center in Hartford, Conn. When the power went out Wednesday, ushering in quickly decreasing temperatures inside, he and a several friends headed down to his family’s house in New Jersey.

“The Kuleks really helped us out,” he said of the experience. “I go to Chabad regularly, but now I’m much closer with the Kuleks and the other students who were there with me.”

For Gabrielle Saltzman and Shoshana Coven, the next step in their adventures led to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y.

“We came with the rabbi and his family,” said Saltzman.

The group took two cars into the city, and has used the time to visit a kosher bagel shop, the Jewish Children’s Museum and Lubavitch World Headquarters.

“It’s so cool. Being immersed in this Jewishness is great,” stated Saltzman. “We walked around, and everybody and everything we see has to do with Judaism.”

The Cleveland native had been to New York City multiple times before, but had never seen this side of it. She’s enjoying her stay in the community.

“It’s just been the greatest experience ever,” she said, adding that she’s been staying with Yossi Kulek’s sister’s relatives. “They’ve been so open and so welcoming.”

As for what’s next, she knows school is right around the corner.

“I don’t mind going back, but I’d rather stay here,” explained Saltzman.

University of Hartford students sought shelter at the local Chabad House.
University of Hartford students sought shelter at the local Chabad House.

“I feel like things keep happening, the situation keeps changing, and as it keeps changing, we get thrown into a new situation and go with the flow,” added Coven.

A handful of the students who had been staying at the Chabad House until the power outage met up Thursday evening in Manhattan for a night out on the town and a chance to reflect on their experiences. Leiderman said he expects to go back to campus on Sunday, and is hoping for the best in terms of electricity.

“Right now, there’s no power at the school,” he said.

Freshman Samantha Lewin took the bus to Englewood, N.J., with two other students when they left the Chabad House, and then went on to nearby Teaneck to stay with her uncle.

She told him about her three nights with Kuleks, and more importantly, how she was touched that she and her friends could rely on their Jewish community for help. What really impressed her was how the Kuleks didn’t blink as more showed up.

“I’m so happy that I had that experience,” said Lewin.

She spoke of the Kuleks as a second family.

“Now we know where everything is: the cabinets, where to put the food away, the dishes away,” said Lewin. “They truly are amazing people.”