As halftime descended on the nail-biter of a game that was Super Bowl XLIII, Farley Weiss, an attorney who had traveled across the country to watch his beloved Arizona Cardinals face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, took position outside of Section 236 at Tampa Bay, Fla.’s Raymond James Stadium with one thing in mind: It was time for the evening prayer service.

Soon, more and more Jewish fans made their way to the same spot, directed there by Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of South Tampa, who coordinated kosher food deliveries, prayer services, classes and Shabbat hospitality for scores of visitors this past weekend.

Prior to the game – which the Steelers won, 27-23 – Dubrowski welcomed fans of all stripes from a table he set up in the tailgating section outside the stadium. He handed out educational pamphlets and invited Jewish men to don tefillin.

“He went beyond the call of duty to help us out,” said Weiss, who serves as president of his local synagogue, Young Israel of Phoenix. “Chabad was very helpful, just like they are all over the world.”

On the Friday night before the big game, Diane Shapiro, a resident of Pittsburgh’s Fox Chapel neighborhood, was also looking for a prayer service. She turned to Chabad of New Tampa, a new center opened just eight months ago by Rabbi Menachem and Chana Yarmush, which guaranteed that the necessary quorum of 10 men would be there so that her husband could say the mourner’s prayer known as Kaddish.

The couple stayed longer than expected.

“We had no idea that there would be a Friday night Shabbat dinner for 60 people!” said Shapiro, who frequents her local Chabad House. “It was better than the fanciest wedding you could go to. Everything impressed me, from the hospitality to the centerpieces, the camaraderie, the warmth; just everything.

“This past Shabbat was just awesome,” she continued. “It’s going to stick in my memory for a long time.”

Weekend of Memories

The weekend’s activities, though, didn’t just focus on the year’s biggest football game: All told, thousands more poured into Tampa Bay for corporate events coinciding with the Super Bowl. Many of the Jewish visitors turned to the three Chabad Houses serving the area.

“Professionals came in from all over the country,” noted Dubrowski.

One man, a business consultant from Baltimore, Md., made the spontaneous decision to stay at Dubrowski’s house for the entire Shabbat. In the times between song-filled services and home-cooked meals, the pair learned Torah together, and even exchanged ideas for how the Chabad House could maximize its operating potential during the economic downturn.

“It was a really special Shabbat,” said the rabbi. “Through Divine Providence, we had an opportunity to meet such wonderful people.”

“I often find the activities surrounding the Super Bowl more interesting then the game itself,” echoed Herschel Boncheck, who flew in from Cleveland to follow up on a business venture. “The dynamic Shabbat was no exception.”