An exclusive group of emerging leaders at college campuses across the world kicked off the largest-ever weekend event hosted by the Chabad on Campus International Foundation.

All told, more than 800 Jewish students and recent alumni gathered in Crown Heights, N.Y., for the International Shabbaton and Conference, but participants of the leadership training portion hailed it as groundbreaking in uniting proven leaders from the business and philanthropic fields with the next generation. By the summit’s conclusion, participants had approved a slate of four resolutions to improve Chabad House programming on both the local and international levels.

Above all, “the sharing and learning with other students made the ideas come alive,” stated Adam Kent, who represented Stony Brook University. “This conference has inspired me to help lead my campus in a larger capacity than before.”

Hosted at Chabad-Lubavitch of Midtown Manhattan, the leadership conference brought together 50 student leaders from 40 campus-based Chabad Houses to swap programming ideas. By the start of the Shabbaton on Friday, attendees of the leadership conference led key workshops and sat down for brainstorming sessions Saturday night.

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, co-director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life serving the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, chaired the conference.

“Each university has a unique demographic that creates its own distinctive challenges,” he began. “Bringing the leaders who face these different difficulties together allows them to study and learn from each other’s experiences.”

According to Tiechtel, the students resolved to ensure that campus-based Chabad House hold tabling sessions at their universities twice each month, implement a series of follow-up committees to improve on student-to-student communication after events, establish a “buzz marketing” program to highlight the activities offered by Chabad Houses, and coordinate a system to care for the personal needs of every Jewish student.

Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman, co-director of the Chabad House serving the University of Delaware, led a workshop to get attendees to identify their own unique style of leadership; he gave examples drawn from classical Jewish texts, such as the leadership models embodies by Moses, King David and King Solomon.

As part of the conference, the student leaders analyzed different styles of leadership throughout Jewish history. (Photo: Yosef Lewis)
As part of the conference, the student leaders analyzed different styles of leadership throughout Jewish history. (Photo: Yosef Lewis)

“It helped me understand my own particular style,” offered Ryan Coane from Texas A&M University.

Thursday’s agenda concluded with a panel hosted by two supporters of Chabad-Lubavitch activities around the world. Howard Morgan, president of the Arca Group and a former professor of decision sciences at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, explained to the students his own calculus in deciding where to give his charity dollars.

“I weigh my giving like any business venture,” he said. “I calculate risk and, based on where I receive the most return, I invest. Chabad carries the least risk and offers a great return” in the increase of Jewish pride and unity.

Rounding out the talk, philanthropist George Rohr, whose family spearheaded and sponsored the recent exponential growth of campus-based Chabad Houses, addressed the topic of philanthropy as a categorical imperative.

“As Jews, we need to ask ourselves: Where does the world get their values of humanity, that we have to cure the sick, feed the hungry, and care for children? These are Jewish values from the Torah,” said Rohr. “Supporting Jewish causes has a ripple effect across the whole world. Even if times are difficult, we need to keep on giving on a level that’s at least on par with what we’ve been giving till now.”