By Aryeh Heitman
Photos: Shimi Kutner
Jewish students from around the world joined together this weekend for the annual Pegisha in New York City. Organized by Chabad on Campus International, the event is one of the highlights of Jewish campus life. The 1,062 students in attendance from six countries – including France, England, Brazil, Argentina and across the United States and Canada – felt pride, challenged and connected by the experience and spending the weekend with so many fellow Jewish college students.
The weekend opened Friday with walking tours of New York City and Crown Heights. Students got a glimpse of the vibrant Jewish community and had the unique chance to see the personal study of the Rebbe in 770, a highlight for many.
After a dynamic opening session hosted by Rabbis Zalman Tiechtel, Shliach to the University of Kansas and Yossy Gordon, CEO of Chabad on Campus International, candle-lighting and Friday night service followed.
Students from across the country were graciously hosted for Shabbat dinner by hundreds of Crown Heights families. Afterward, they participated in sessions that covered topics as diverse as “Beakers & Black Hats: A Scientists return to observant Judaism”, “A Tale of Two Souls” and “A Kabbalah approach to Mindfulness”
Shabbat morning commenced with Shacharit. Rabbi Mendel Rubin, Shliach at Chabad Jewish Student Center in Albany, ran an educational exploration of prayer tittle ‘Distilled Faith” which led to a lively discussion especially for those who were less familiar with the traditional prayer services.
At the delicious Shabbat lunch, Pegisha participants heard from renowned lecturer Rabbi YY Jacobson. With an afternoon of thought-provoking sessions to choose from, participants had some very difficult decisions to make.
Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman led a panel on ‘Bumps in the Road: A Session on Positivity and Mindfulness’, which clearly resonated with all in attendance.
The afternoon sessions also included a riveting crossfire on a range of topical Jewish issues led by Rabbi YY Jacobson, Rabbi Mendel Rubin, Mrs. Chani Shemtov, Shlucha at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Mrs. Miriam Lipskier, Shlucha at Chabad at Emory University.
Following an inspiring Havdalah and dancing, students enjoyed ‘Pegisha Vibe with Your Tribe’, with copious food and mitzvah stations, as well as walking entertainers and musical entertainment.
The Pegisha closed on Sunday with an address from Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and Chairman of Chabad on Campus International, Avi Weinstein, COO of Chabad on Campus International, and Rabbi Shlomie Chein, Shliach at the University of California S. Cruz, and Vice President of Student Engagement at Chabad on Campus International. This was followed by a powerful visit to the Rebbe’s Ohel.
“Year in, year out, Pegisha is the biggest highlight and it’s wonderful to see so many first-time participants experiencing Shabbat in Crown Heights,” said Rabbi Gordon. “Pegisha blends the family Shabbos experience with the chance to meet and interact with a thousand other Jewish students.”