Dressed in their finest and energized for the new academic year, some 400 students sailed the Hudson River to celebrate a wealth of programs serving the Jewish community at New York University.

The Sept. 8 extravaganza aboard The Temptress featured a sushi buffet and dessert spread, and the musical accompaniment of Philadelphia’s Baal Shem Tov Band. Attendees described the fourth annual cruise—a yearly kickoff of sorts for the Chabad-Lubavitch center serving NYU and the local branch of Jewish Heritage Programs—as a fitting way to welcome people to campus.

“It greatly enhanced my second week at NYU,” said sophomore Avery Ramin, an international-relations major.

“It was a lot of fun,” added his friend, pre-med student Daren Gorman.

The evening began with a round of hors d’oeuvres while the 160-foot yacht docked at Manhattan’s Pier 81. Once the anchor was lifted, students milled about the spacious cabin, tasting cakes, cookies and fruit as the boat sailed up the river.

Taking in the brightly lit Manhattan skyline—bookended by the Statue of Liberty and the dual beams of light memorializing the fallen twin towers of the World Trade Center—Rabbi Dov Yona Korn, co-director of the Chabad House, saw significance in so many Jewish students celebrating their identity.

“One side reminds us of sights our ancestors may have seen when they first came to this country,” mused the rabbi, “and on the other side, the shining beams remind us of our responsibility to overcome darkness. Here, we are celebrating life, goodness, righteousness and hope. This is a beautiful moment for me.”

Back inside, the rabbi and fellow co-director Sara Korn greeted returning students and welcomed freshmen. “It is exciting to meet the new students who will soon be joining us for Shabbat dinners,” she said.

Some 400 college students joined the cruise on the Hudson.
Some 400 college students joined the cruise on the Hudson.

Study and Inspiration

Matthew F. Glick, a senior studying history and politics, said his first introduction to the Chabad House came through its chapter of the Sinai Scholars Society, a partnership between the Chabad on Campus International Foundation and the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, which allows students to learn about Judaism in an academic setting.

A past member of Chabad’s student board and the current president of the local Alpha Epsilon Pi, a traditionally Jewish fraternity, Glick said Sinai Scholars “framed Judaism in a way I hadn’t looked at it before.”

Invoking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai—when the Jewish people collective announced, “We will do and we will listen!”—Glick noted that the Chabad House inspired him to keep exploring his heritage.

“I feel that the more mitzvahs I do, the more I’ll come to understand,” he said. “I want to keep learning more and more.”

Attendees also lauded Jewish Heritage Programs, a national pioneer in peer-to-peer programming that began at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. NYU junior Ariel Kantor said that after taking part in a free Taglit-Birthright Israel trip to the Holy Land with Korn, she decided to help lead her campus JHP.

According to Kantor, a group of about 40 non-affiliated Jewish students will meet weekly throughout this semester for study sessions and events.

“Chabad has given me the resources to start a program on my own,” said Kantor. “It is rewarding to be able to inspire others and find a niche for people who would otherwise not have one.

“I’ve always been happy to be Jewish,” she added, “but it has never been important to me until now. I want to make that true for others as well.”