When Rabbi Shlomo and Chanie Silverman return to Pittsburgh in the coming weeks, they will join an ever-expanding army of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries dedicated to strengthening Jewish pride among college students.

You could say that the mission is in the Silvermans’ blood.

“My wife and I both grew up in families where helping Jewish students, especially in Pittsburgh, was the primary focus,” explained Silverman just after the conclusion of the annual Chabad on Campus International Conference, held this year in Kerhonkson, N.Y.

The daughter of Rabbi Shmuel and Sara Weinstein, co-directors of the Pittsburgh-based Myer and Ann Cohen Chabad House on Campus, Chanie Silverman was brought up in a home whose doors were always open to students. Her husband’s parents, Yosef and Fraydi Silverman, continue to serve as community partners of the Chabad House.

“Now, we are embarking on our own mission,” says Chanie Silverman. “We’re establishing the first full-time Chabad House for Carnegie Mellon University.”

The Silvermans’ project – one of at least 13 to be inaugurated in the coming year – is made possible by a grant from the Rohr Family Foundation. At the conference’s closing session, philanthropist George Rohr reflected on the growth of Chabad on Campus – more than 130 campuses worldwide are currently represented by full-service centers, while another 150 are served by regional Chabad Houses – and marveled at what can still be accomplished.

“I have to say, it takes one’s breath away to think about what has happened, thank G‑d,” said Rohr. “And it takes one’s breath away when we think about what’s to come.”

Speaking before Rohr, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, chairman of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation and vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, outlined the overarching goal.

“There shouldn’t be one Jew that does not know of his or her heritage,” he said.

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Campus-based Chabad-Lubavitch women emissaries attend a session at the annual Chabad on Campus International Conference.
Campus-based Chabad-Lubavitch women emissaries attend a session at the annual Chabad on Campus International Conference.

Pointing to several statistics – according to figures compiled by the foundation, some 74,340 students in North America alone took part in Chabad on Campus programming in the past year, while an average of 5,481 attended Shabbat dinners every week – Kotlarsky emphasized the example of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, proved that more could always be done.

“The Rebbe wasn’t happy with any statistic that you gave him,” said Kotlarsky. “I could imagine he’d say, ‘5,481 people at a Shabbos table? 54,810 would be even better.’ ”

Speaking after the conference, Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, executive director of the Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania and president of Chabad on Campus, said that campus-based emissaries are always innovating in their programming. The constant, he added, is their love of each and every Jew.

“Whether its through classes, private tutorials, counseling, dorm holiday parties, Internet-based content, and community service efforts,” said Schmidt, “each and every Chabad House works to enliven students’ Jewish identities.”

“When we decided to dedicate our lives to inspiring Jewish people,” said Rabbi Mendy Rivkin, who with his wife Sheiny will move to Towson University in Maryland this Tuesday, “we concluded that there was no better way than to establish a campus-based Chabad House.”

In addition to the Rivkins and the Silvermans, new emissaries establishing Chabad Houses in the coming year include Rabbi Chaim and Yocheved Boyarsky at Carelton University and the University of Ottawa; Rabbi Sholem Ber and Rivka Galperin at Michigan State University; Rabbi Moshe and Rivky Goldman at the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario; Rabbi Elazar and Shira Green at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.; Rabbi Zalman and Yehudit Greenberg at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania; Rabbi Shmuel and Ariel Kravitsky, whose Chabad of the Four Colleges will serve Amherst, Hampshire, Smith and Mt. Holyoke Colleges; Rabbi Menachem and Bracha Lent at Nottingham University in the United Kingdom; and Rabbi Chezky and Perel Wolff at the New School of Social Research and Cardozo University Law School in New York City.

Speaking about national programming, Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive vice president of Chabad on Campus, said that he expected further growth in the near future.

“Our alternative Spring Break trips to help Jewish communities in Germany, South America and New Orleans were a big hit with students, and we hope to continue that connection with needy Jewish populations across the globe,” said Gordon. “In addition, our partnership with Mayanot has brought thousands of students to Israel as part of the free Taglit-birthright israel program. Our Israelinks program this summer further strengthened the connection birthright israel alumni have to Holy Land. More is on the way.”

Added Gordon: “It promises to be an exciting year.”