What happens when 200 fraternity brothers get together over the course of a single weekend?

Bonding, learning, planning, dialogue, and yes, a whole heap of food eaten.

More than 200 fraternity brothers gathered last Shabbat for one of the largest student Shabbatons ever held in the United Kingdom, according to program organizers. The fourth annual AEPi Europe Conclave, hosted by Chabad on Campus UK, was held at the Chabad of Oxford Jewish Student Centre, co-directed by Rabbi Eli and Freida Brackman.

Andy Borans, executive director of AEPi International, said that the largest Jewish fraternity has partnered with Chabad for more than 10 years. “Chabad on Campus and AEPi are natural partners, and it was great to see the camaraderie between the brothers and rabbis.”

The weekend included a Friday-night Shabbat dinner for 200 students and discussions on how to support Israel on college campuses, a topic that has garnered much attention over the past few years. Shabbat lunch was accompanied by presentations from students in Israel and across Europe, and a musical Havdalah program was followed by a Saturday-night buffet dinner, complete with a career panel to help students plan their futures.

Jewish pride was felt throughout the weekend. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Jewish pride was felt throughout the weekend. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)

“As an honorary brother of AEPi, it was a pleasure to spend an energetic 48 hours with my fellow brothers,” said Rabbi Eli Simon, co-director of Chabad at Manchester Universities. “I was able to bond with the brothers of my chapter, as well as meet new faces from other chapters all over the continent. The most noticeably beautiful feeling throughout the weekend was one of Jewish pride and love for one another.

“And the relaxed setting set the tone for a most enjoyable Shabbat.”

‘A Great Success’

Brackman, the keynote speaker at the Friday-night dinner, discussed the splitting of the sea at the Exodus and offered a relevant lesson in its wake. He urged students not to be indifferent in the face of challenges on campus, but to stand up proudly for Jewish values for the sake of continuity, responsibility, and the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people.

To ride out the rough seas, so to speak, and stand tall on the shore.

Bonding, learning, planning, dialogue and some downtime were on the schedule. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Bonding, learning, planning, dialogue and some downtime were on the schedule. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)

“The weekend was a great success, and we look forward to seeing this excellent partnership between Chabad on Campus and AEPi continue to grow,” said Brackman, noting that the two organizations share the common values of Judaism, Jewish communal responsibility and love of Israel.

Marc Cowan, the founder and international ambassador of AEPi England, was responsible for the logistics and operations of the Conclave. He said “it was a spectacular site to see so many brothers coming together, while also seeing just how far AEPi has come over the past years. We have truly made an impact to hundreds of students’ lives all around the United Kingdom.”

Chabad on Campus UK rabbis who attended the program included Rabbi Mendy Lent, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nottingham, and Rabbi Yossi Cheruff, co-director of Chabad on Birmingham Campuses-Jewish Student Center. Many Chabad on Campus rabbis are honorary AEPi brothers in their local chapters and serve on AEPi executive boards.

As part of the weekend, a career panel offered tips for students to help plan their futures. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
As part of the weekend, a career panel offered tips for students to help plan their futures. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)

Sami Steinbock of AEPi London said: “Chabad on Campus UK put on an excellent weekend for us—better than anything we could have imagined.”

The program followed a recent visit to the Oxford Chabad Society by Emeritus Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who is also an AEPi member. During his lecture, Dershowitz expressed his belief that Chabad on Campus is a vital ingredient for the growth of Jewish life on university settings.

The Shabbaton was sponsored by Chabad of Oxford; March of the Living UK; Chabad on Campus International; Chabad Lubavitch UK; and Martin and Lona Stern of London and Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yossi Cheruff, co-director of Chabad on Birmingham Campuses-Jewish Student Center, left, with Rabbi Eli Simon, co-director of Chabad at Manchester Universities (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Rabbi Yossi Cheruff, co-director of Chabad on Birmingham Campuses-Jewish Student Center, left, with Rabbi Eli Simon, co-director of Chabad at Manchester Universities (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Students were urged not to be indifferent in the face of challenges on campus, but to stand up proudly for Jewish values, and the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Students were urged not to be indifferent in the face of challenges on campus, but to stand up proudly for Jewish values, and the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Havdalah was accompanied by music. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Havdalah was accompanied by music. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
The Havdalah ceremony, which concludes Shabbat and ushers in the new week. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
The Havdalah ceremony, which concludes Shabbat and ushers in the new week. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Reciting the Havdalah blessings. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
Reciting the Havdalah blessings. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
A buffet dinner followed Havdalah. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)
A buffet dinner followed Havdalah. (Photo: Fien Barnett-Neefs)