With one year of college under his belt, 19-year-old Mosha Leibman wants to spend the next one as a vocal champion of his campus-based Chabad House.

One of dozens of attendees at this past Sunday’s West Coast Chabad on Campus Student Leadership Retreat, the rising sophomore at the University of California at Los Angeles says that Chabad-Lubavitch has played an integral role in his life. Shortly after Leibman’s birth in the Soviet Union, his father embraced his Jewish heritage.

“That was a no-no,” says Leibman. His father’s only outlet was in an underground network of Chabad-Lubavitch activities in Moscow.

“I was Chabad-bred,” adds the microbiology major, who now calls S. Monica, Calif., home.

He attended the retreat, held at the Los Angeles headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch of the West Coast, to improve his leadership and social skills.

“The retreat will empower me in my efforts to promote Chabad at UCLA,” he says.

Rabbi Dov Wagner, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Student Center serving the University of Southern California, says attendees of the retreat, like Leibman, are up-and-coming Jewish leaders.

Students “walk away with real, practical tools to enhance Jewish activity on their own campuses,” says Wagner. The retreat, in its fourth year, “affords student leaders the opportunity to interact with others to share ideas, network and see that Chabad is vibrant.”

Renewing Old Ties

For Jonathan Penley, Sunday’s retreat gave him the opportunity to “renew ties with old friends” since it was his second time to attend.

The 22-year-old UCLA senior, majoring in Middle Eastern and religious studies, started attending Chabad House programs and Shabbat dinners two years ago after he transferred to UCLA from a California community college. He picked the retreat, he says, to learn innovating programming ideas that will help student leaders promote the Chabad House to fellow students.

Penley, though, is nothing if not practical. He was “also looking forward to the great food.”

According to Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, co-director of the Chabad House serving UCLA, the day-long program – which featured a performance by Modi, a Jewish comedian touted as one of the hottest acts on the New York City comedy club circuit – served to “inspire students to continue their leadership roles on their campuses, encourage them to participate in post-college programs, and to give them an opportunity to network and socialize.”

Gurevich added that students from as far away as Arizona State University attended. Other schools represented included the University of California at S. Barbara, California State University, Northridge, and S. Monica College.

Chief among the agenda items, says Gurevich, was “encouraging joint programs among Chabad Houses at different universities. Student input is important.”

Penley couldn’t agree more.

“Student roles are important because the directors can’t do it all,” he says. “I like to learn new ways to be of help to them.”