As university students around the country concluded the fall semester by nestling into late-night study sessions in preparation for their final exams, Chabad Houses serving dozens of campuses flung open their doors for food-filled study breaks known as "Midnight Breakfasts.

With flashcards in hand, more than 30 students at California State University, Chico, paused in the midst of their cramming to fill up on smoothies, cinnamon buns and apple turnovers at the Chabad Jewish Center run by Rabbi Mendy and Chana Rochel Zwiebel.

"I was so sick of studying," said psychology major Isaac Roberts, 21. "It was nice to get out and have some good homemade food."

Roberts, who stayed at the Chabad House until 1:00 a.m., credited the late-night fest with his successful studying that night.

"It totally woke me up," he explained. "If I had not stopped and gone to the Chabad House, I'd just be in my room staring at the wall."

This semester, the Shabbos House Chabad Center offered students at the University at Albany in the New York State capital a change in their normal exam season routine. For the night before Reading Day – when classes are cancelled to enable a full day of study – Rabbi Mendel and Raizy Rubin opened up the Chabad House.

"Usually kids go out to the bars and party all night before they have the pressures of studying" related Raizy Rubin. "So we wanted to provide students with a more cozy option where they could have a constructive and relaxing time."

The Rubins turned the center into a breakfast lounge, hosting 50 students for a night of socializing and full buffet of cereal, pancakes, waffles, coffee, ice cream and pastries.

"It was a totally pressure-free event," said Rubin. "They all enjoyed the food, talked with each other and had a light and easy time before getting into their studies."

Many of the students even took the time to connect with Mendel Rubin, who presided over a spontaneous rapid-fire question-and-answer session on all topics Jewish. As the evening fell out on the sixth night of Chanukah, they also took part in a late-night menorah lighting ceremony.

Chabad House of Pancakes

A University of Maryland student makes pancakes at the Bais Menachem Chabad Jewish Student Center in College Park, Md.
A University of Maryland student makes pancakes at the Bais Menachem Chabad Jewish Student Center in College Park, Md.
But whereas the breakfasts at Chico, Calif., and Albany, N.Y., were relatively low-key affairs, the new Chabad Jewish Center serving Texas A&M University hosted a full-week "Study Full Throttle" program that saw the Chabad House be transformed into a 24-6 study center with computer access, wireless Internet and scanners. An endless supply of coffee, energy drinks and snack foods kept the students going.

Rabbi Yossi and Manya Lazaroff, who just finished their first semester as directors of the center, came up with the idea with the help of their student board.

"We didn't want to do just anything," revealed Manya Lazaroff. "We wanted to really meet a need.

"We realized finals were coming up and that students often complain about noise during studying and running into everyone they know at the library," she continued. "We were in the Chabad House and looked around: It's so comfortable and quiet. We thought, 'What a great place to study!' "

"We wanted a place that was like home, but still had the good study environment," said Jody Martin, 21, a communications major who serves as the Social Chair of the Chabad student group at A&M.

Martin, who was at the Chabad House until 8:00 every morning, described the study center as "homey."

"We had big leather sofas where students were sprawled out with their books," said Martin. "In other corners there were students talking quietly about their week. In the back, the rabbi was studying the weekly Torah portion with some of the guys."

"The Rabbi and his wife had the place stocked with everything a student could ever need or want when it comes to studying," said history major Sammy Berg, 22. "There's something to be said about studying with friends in a relaxed and comfortable place. It definitely took the stress out of studying."

"It definitely worked," agreed Martin. "I did well on all my tests."

Yossi Lazaroff, who spent most of the nights during the week sleeping at the student center, said that a positive environment "gives you the stamina and energy to succeed."

"And if they succeed in their studies," he added, "they will succeed in life, and then succeed as people."

Still, at Chabad on Campus serving Princeton University, co-directors Rabbi Eitan and Gitty Webb took a decidedly different approach during the exam season. At their Midnight Breakfast – which boasted made-to-order pancakes and omelets – they employed one rule for the 50 students who came by for anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours: No books allowed.

Program coordinator Chaya Faigelstock said that even though Princeton students are notorious for their fastidious study regimens, several remained at 2:30 a.m. to play a few rounds of charades.

"We love having students over," said program coordinator Chaya Faigelstock. "It's a true home away from home. So when there's a lot of studying going on and they're up late, we wanted to be that place where they can relax a little."