The pink tablecloths and plates at the local party supplies store had never particularly caught her eye before, but by the time Raizy Rubin noticed the donations from a local party supply store, the color had acquired a new significance.

The co-director of the Shabbos House Jewish Student Center, a Chabad-Lubavitch center serving the University at Albany, and her student board had already been thinking about hosting an event to highlight the plight of women suffering from breast cancer and the search for a cure. When the pink paper goods arrived, the die was cast. They held their Pink Shabbat late last month to coincide with the university’s Parents’ Weekend.

Thanks to the publicity campaigns of the Pink Ribbon Foundation, Sharsheret and other organizations, pink has become the unofficial color of a host of campaigns to raise public awareness about breast cancer. Nationwide last month – the unofficial Breast Cancer Awareness Month – campus-based Chabad Houses joined in the fight. In Albany, the pink-themed Shabbat lunch featured such items as mayonnaise tinted pink from the addition of a beet and horseradish condiment known as chrein, pink deli meats, and strawberry imitation ice cream.

More than 70 people attended the event, and students resolved to organize a relay team for their university’s annual Relay For Life walk-a-thon next March. The Chabad House’s student group, L’Chaim, partnered with Students at Albany Against Cancer to hand out brochures and other materials at the event, and two students made a short presentation about cancer awareness and prevention. The Chabad House also drew up its own list of facts and information, which included a list of Jewish organizations committed to helping find a cure.

“Pink Shabbat was a big hit,” said Sheryl Hoffman, a senior at Albany, who serves as the president of L’Chaim. “Hopefully, people learned something, such as the importance of doing monthly self-exams that could potentially be life saving.”

Hoffman added that the event spurred interest in other health-related programming at the Chabad House: “It inspired me to look into sponsoring First Aid and CPR training possibly next semester. Our organization is, after all, named L’Chaim, which means ‘to life.’ What would be more appropriate than learning life-saving skills?”

For her part, Rubin said that the event’s message seemed to resonate with parents.

“We spoke about the fact that when someone is fighting a disease, the support of family and friends is extremely important,” said Rubin. “Throughout life, parents remain a tremendous support to their children. The parents really appreciated that connection.”

The lunch had added significance for attendees who knew women who had been diagnosed with cancer.

“Like many others, I have known many people who were victims to cancer,” said Hoffman. “I wanted to do something productive to memorialize them. Pink Shabbat allowed for that to occur.”

Bracelets and Ribbons

Chavie Lieberman, who co-directs the Chabad Jewish Student Center in Hempstead, N.Y., originally shelved the idea of doing a Pink Shabbat when the only available date was on Hofstra University’s Family Weekend. But a conversation with two students whose lives had been affected by cancer changed her mind.

“On Sukkot, I was talking to a student about her mother, who currently has breast cancer. She was with a friend whose mother is a survivor. I mentioned to them that I had wanted to do a Pink Shabbat, and they loved the idea,” said Lieberman. “They offered to sponsor it, so we decided to do it right after Sukkot.”

Despite organizing the event at the last minute, everything went smoothly. The pink theme was reflected in tablecloths, napkins and a menu that, just like at Albany, featured pink foods from the fish course through dessert. Sharsheret, a Jewish organization founded in 2001 by a woman diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28, provided informational handouts.

Both Shabbat programs came on the heels of an end-of-year cancer-awareness event at the Schottenstein Chabad House serving Ohio State University. More than 60 young women attended the May gathering, which was co-sponsored by Alpha Epsilon Phi, a traditionally Jewish sorority, and featured an address by a survivor and mother to one of the sorority sisters.

After the Ohio event, students made bracelets from beads containing a miniature pink ribbon. They also donated money to the Pink Ribbon Foundation.

“It was a really beautiful night,” said Sarah Deitsch, co-director of the Schottenstein Chabad House. “So many girls were talking to the speaker afterward, some of whose moms are also survivors. It was just so important for everyone to have the chance to come together and discuss the issue.”

Back at Hofstra, Lieberman said that she plans on scheduling more events to raise cancer awareness.

“The Shabbat made those who have friends and family with cancer feel more supported and less alone,” she said. “That in itself is a success.”