corona-5199233_640.jpg

(Update: Nov. 16, 2020)

As always, we hope this email finds you and your families well.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I know that many are choosing to stay in St. Louis. WashU's Dining Services, including the Kosher kitchen on campus, will remain open during the holiday. I have received a number of questions about catering. Here is what I know:

  • Kohn’s Kosher is a full service butcher and offers catered meals. For Thanksgiving, they have two options: a prix-fixe menu and an ala carte menu. They deliver to Chabad frequently, so you might be able to ask them to send your delivery to us for your student to pick up. Contact Kohn’s at 314-569-0727 or at [email protected]
  • 613 Catering (Jon Rubin) at the JCC also offers take-out options. To order, contact Robin Rickerman at 314-442-3275.

(Both of these vendors are certified Kosher by the Vaad Hoeir of St Louis.)

On another note: We are partnering with the Chabad at the University of Missouri and JGrads St. Louis to offer students the opportunity to participate in a special program entitled: “If you see something, say something,” to help students help themselves and their peers who may be facing mental health struggles. The program will be held on the first night of Chanukah, Thursday evening, December 10 at 7 pm. Advance registration is required. Thank you to the Gelt Charitable Foundation for sponsorship.

If we can be of any assistance at any time to your or your children, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here for you.

Wishing you continued good health,

Rabbi Hershey Novack 

(Update: Nov. 12, 2020)

Likely you have seen the university’s policy regarding undergraduate Thanksgiving travel. Obviously, this is no one’s ideal plan. But then again, neither is the pandemic. A friend of mine has a quote at the bottom of her emails which reads: “You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” To this I add, we must maintain a positive outlook as well.

As the number of Covid-19 cases rises in St. Louis, the County Department of Health is expected to issue new guidelines and mandates in order to slow the spread of the disease. While we await updated instructions, we are doubling down on good behavior (symptom checks, mask wearing, distancing, and other recommended protocols), positive role-modeling, and student support. For now, the Chabad House – particularly our outdoor courtyard – is still open for limited in-person events that cannot be replicated online. We have currently deployed seven heaters outdoors, which means we are burning through a lot of propane and kerosene. Thank you to the brothers of the ZBT house with whom we share a yard for being so helpful and supportive during this season.

Quick notes:

  • If your student is in isolation or quarantine housing, please let us know. We are working to support this portion of our community by calling and checking in, helping with Shabbat-to-Go packages, and other Kosher provisions. We will get through this together.
  • We continue to provide masks and hand-sanitizer to the student and general community with a table on the street where anyone can help themselves to whatever they need.

Looking ahead:

  • I am pleased to share that the WashU Kosher kitchen will be open during Thanksgiving. Additionally, we will also be hosting safe activities during the break.
  • We are also planning for Chanukah, which is in one month. Our plans emphasize safety and flexibility, so we can bring the joy of the holiday to students wherever they may be: whether they are in quarantine, or whether they are able to gather in small groups.

Chana & I wish you all the best for continued good health,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

---

In November of 2015, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks visited St. Louis and spent part of his visit at Washington University. I had the incredible privilege of interviewing him about his life and work. During the interview, he spoke about his time in college and his encounter with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Sadly, Rabbi Sacks passed away earlier this week. I share the following D’var Torah by my colleague (and former roommate) Rabbi Dr. Reuven Leigh of the Chabad of Cambridge.

The Life of Sarah: Thoughts on the Passing of Rabbi Lord Sacks

The oft-asked question, as to why the portion of the Torah which immediately informs us of the passing of Sarah the matriarch is called ‘The Life of Sarah,’ took on extra meaning this week with the news of the passing of Rabbi Lord Sacks. In a spontaneous outpouring of genuine grief and loss, people from the widest possible spectrum of society, from royalty and world leaders, to rabbis and laymen, went beyond the usual platitudes and niceties these events usually elicit, and unguardedly displayed their sadness and shock. Yet for all the grief and sadness, the dominant feature of the obituaries and reflections in the wake of his passing has been a deepening awareness and appreciation of ‘The Life of Jonathan Sacks.’

It is worth remembering that the life-trajectory of one of the most outstanding leaders of Jewish thought and values of our time, was set in motion when he was an undergraduate student in Cambridge. He would often recount his trip to America in 1969, where he met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who challenged him to become more responsible for Jewish student life in Cambridge and to make a difference, as a pivotal moment in his life. Initially, the young Jonathan Sacks demurred and tried to deflect the Rebbe’s demands, opening his defense with a polite, ‘In the situation in which I find myself…’ Immediately, the Rebbe interrupted him and explained, “Nobody finds themselves in a situation; you put yourself in a situation. And if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another situation.” This proved to be the clincher, and Rabbi Sacks’ orientation towards Jewish learning and responsibility, and away from academic philosophy, was set in motion.

One of Rabbi Sacks’ earliest projects in the 1970s, was a translation and adaptation of the Hebrew and Yiddish essays of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the weekly Parshah. These were ultimately published as Torah Studies and can be found online here: www.chabadwashu.org/110248.

The essay Rabbi Sacks chose for this week’s Parshah focuses on its first verse (Genesis 23:1): “And the life of Sarah was 100 years and 20 years and 7 years: These were the years of the life of Sarah.” The Midrash wonders why the verse doesn’t simply say 127 years, why the need to separate the numbers and repeat the word ‘years.’ Furthermore, why does the verse need to conclude and tell us seemingly again, that ‘these were the years of the life of Sarah.’ You can read the full essay here: www.chabadwashu.org/110321

I would like to point out one section of the essay that I believe can serve as a reflection on Rabbi Sacks himself. In the midst of discussing the Midrash’s explanation of how the sequence of the verse serves to indicate the perfection and constancy of Sarah’s life, the essay considers what might be considered the perfected life:

“When a man finds himself in an environment detrimental to his standards, there are three ways in which he can preserve his integrity:

(i) He can strengthen himself inwardly not to be influenced by his surroundings. But this is an incomplete victory, for if he were to relax his self-control he would capitulate, thus implying a lowering of status.

(ii) He can separate himself from those around him. But again, his victory is only because he has removed himself from temptation: He has not met it head-on and is as prone as ever to be lowered.

(iii) Lastly, he can set out to influence his environment and raise it to his own level. This is a complete triumph over one’s surroundings — the dangers have not only been avoided, they have been removed entirely.”

Rabbi Sacks was very much an example of someone who took the third path suggested above. He was able to venture into surroundings that most other people shy away from, and whilst there, he would confidently convey the beauty of Judaism. He was a great Jewish thinker, not in spite of being educated at Cambridge, but rather because he embraced the perceived challenges posed by secular thought, and ultimately becoming a genuine voice for the integrity of Judaism. It is an example we should all try to emulate.

The Rebbe concludes the essay with an explanation of the enduring influence of Sarah, such that even after her passing the ‘Life of Sarah’ continues, and Rabbi Sacks somewhat presciently closes with these words: “The perfect life does not end in death; it sanctifies all that comes after it.”

May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.

(Update: Nov. 6, 2020)

As the days shorten, we will all be spending less time outdoors. This may have an impact on the mental health of young people. While we don't know how students will react, especially if local authorities decide to reimpose some restrictions, our team is here for them.

If someone you know is having a hard time, maybe just a bit of stress or anxiety, or more, please let your students know that they are not alone – and neither are you. Chana and I, and the entire Chabad team, have the privilege of working with your children each day and we are deeply committed to their health and wellbeing. We want them to succeed. We are not therapists, we are parents ourselves who live steps from campus. You may reach out to us at any time, day or night, and we will try to help. We can offer: 

  • a listening ear and a shoulder on which to lean
  • a support system
  • referrals to local therapists and other services
  • delivery to those in quarantine
  • and of course, homemade chicken soup deliveries 

If your student begins to feel under the weather, please reach out to us so that we can deliver homemade chicken soup to them. Please email [email protected] or reply to this email. We usually have a vegetarian option available. There is no fee for this service; we only ask that you consider to be generous if and when you are able to contribute.

We are launching a six-part course called “Worrier to Warrior: Jewish Secrets to Feeling Good However You Feel.” If this is of interest to your student, please have them fill this in.

I wish you a peaceful and restful Shabbat,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

PS - Thank you to Professor Richard Axelbaum of the McKelvey School of Engineering for reviewing the HVAC system at Chabad, and for sharing recommendations for indoor air filtration and dilution. We thank him for his commitment to student safety and to Jewish life on campus.

---

Here is an idea on the Parsha that resonated with me:

When Avraham was negotiating to save the wicked city of Sedom from destruction, he pleaded “If there are only 50 righteous people within the city… won’t you save the whole city for the sake of the righteous people who are in it?” (Vayera 18:24).

The phrasing seems redundant. Why does Avraham need to specify ‘righteous people within the city’ and then repeat again ‘the righteous people who are in it’? It is obvious that the righteous people he’s referring to are locals.

Rabbi Shamshon Refael Hirsch (Germany, 1808-1888) points out that the implication is that for leaders to make a difference they’ve got to live ‘among the people.’ One cannot expect to effect positive change when passively located in an area, rather, the leaders must be ‘within’ the city – dwelling and role-modeling as active members in the community. 

This touches on an earlier idea in the Parsha. When hosting guests (who turn out to be angels), Avraham is so diligent in his hospitality that our sages derived from his actions ‘It is greater to receive guests than it is to receive the Divine Presence.’ To be a true leader in a community means to be willing to sacrifice one’s own personal accomplishments – even the revelation of the Shechina – in order to lead and educate. 

(Update: Oct. 22, 2020)

Yesterday would have been my father's 66th birthday and I miss him dearly. He had many gifts, among them his ability to find commonality with countless people, despite his imposing 6-foot 6-inch stout frame, full beard, and large Kippah. One of the most precious lessons I’ve learned from my father is the power of expressing gratitude. Just a few simple words have the ability to elevate and appreciate.

In this vein, please allow me to thank each and every one of you who has pitched in and made a gift during the past season. Your support is an uplifting vote of confidence in our work. Your contributions, of all sizes, are a powerful demonstration of support during a complicated time. You have not only helped Chabad WashU, you directly help the student community. Thank you for making a world of difference for young people.

One student wrote, "...there is nothing expected about this semester, but you guys take it in stride and manage to make it look easy. You are doing a good job and my friends and I are thankful." 

The credit for us to remain open in a safe manner and to continue to deliver community-building programs and education is because of… you! In a previous email, I introduced our staff team. I made a mistake in that email; I left you out. You are a most critical member of our team.

As a token of appreciation to you, our friends and supporters, we would like to offer you a small gift from our collection of customized WashU and WashU Chabad products. We are glad to send you a custom-printed glass Kiddush cup, an embroidered Challah cover, a logo facemask, or a small delicates bag for washing masks (click the link for pictures). Some of these items were ably produced by www.coolkippahs.com which is owned by a WashU family. Please email [email protected] with your selection and your mailing address and we'll get it out to you. 

As always, the entire Chabad team and I wish you a peaceful and restorative Shabbat.

Stay healthy and safe,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

Ps - The numbers of infected students remains low; however, the numbers in St. Louis are far more sobering. We must not fall prey to pandemic fatigue and continue to comply with public health guidelines to stay safe.

This reminds me of the story of Noah, the Torah portion that we reading this week. Flood waters threatened to drown everything, but Noah made an Ark. And then, the same waters that threatened to drown him lifted him and his family higher than the greatest mountains. There are many reasons to feel down now, between the pandemic, social unrest, toxic politics, and economic challenges, but if we can channel the positivity of creating our own personal sacred space for holiness and service – our own personal "Ark" – then we will hopefully find serenity which can be a catalyst for growth, and our challenges can be transformed into opportunities.

Amen.


 

(Update: Oct. 15, 2020)

It feels hard to believe that classes started only a month ago. Since that time, students have adapted to the new realities of mask wearing, distancing, Zoom classes, and registering in advance before gathering in a safe way. For the most part they have avoided the transmission of Covid-19 on campus. There are a number of factors that have contributed to this accomplishment including a cautious response from the administration, a commitment from students, and yes, a bit of luck. Still, Chancellor Emeritus Mark Wrighton was fond of quoting Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” 

At times, people think that the Chabad House is run by my wife Chana and myself, and while this was the case many years ago, the organization has grown and today we are joined by a dedicated team. These professionals are working extra-hard during the pandemic because of the added layers of complexity. For the past month, we have been so focused on the beginning of the semester and the holidays, that we have missed the chance to introduce our team. When this is all over and it is safe again, I look forward to hosting an open house where you can meet our team in person; until then, an email will have to suffice.

  • Chana R. Novack, Co-Director of Chabad, oversees ongoing classes and programs. She is also a great resource for young people who need advice, referrals, or a listening ear. Chana also heads up our partnership with Dining Services which enables us to continue to host young people during the pandemic. She can be reached at [email protected]
  • Reshit Ehrlich is our Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow. She teaches the Your Israel classes, runs Israel-themed events like shawarma in the sukkah, Hebrew language 'sichot,' Mishelanu, a club for Israelis and children of Israelis, and other programs. She also helps coordinate Birthright Israel trips – though this aspect of her portfolio is on hiatus. Her email is [email protected]
  • Rabbinical Interns Ariel Fine and Shimon Mishchaninov have joined our team for the holiday season to provide programming, learning opportunities, and meaningful experiences to your students. Ariel is from Pretoria, South Africa, and Shimon is from New York. Once things settle down, they will continue their studies at the Rabbinical College of America.
  • Glenna Gelfand is the office administrator. Due to the pandemic, she currently works remotely while being logged in to her work computer. If you need to update your information or wish to make a donation, please contact her at [email protected] She also teaches English at a local college.
  • Rabbi Yossi and Goldie Abenson run our graduate student program called JGrads. They are based in the Central West End, just on the other side of Forest Park, and near WashU’s medical school, where they also direct the local Chabad program for the CWE. If you or your students want more information about Jewish life in the Central West End or to find out more about the Jewish scene for grad students and recent grads in St Louis, contact them at [email protected] and [email protected]
  • I probably should mention that I too have the privilege of serving on this team. I help provide guidance around Jewish learning, services, and various Mitzvahs such as Mezuzahs. I also try to provide a listening ear, advice, and referrals to young people. In my spare time, I am on the board of the Jewish Family Services and currently serve as the chair of WashU’s Interfaith Campus Ministries Association.
  • Another phenomenal team of staff manage the cleaning, inventory, and physical operations in the Chabad House. Although their efforts are noticed and appreciated these team-members are less visible to the student or parent communities so I’ll skip the introductions here. But I would be remiss if I did not mention Andrew, Autumn, Paula, and Sara, who each contribute in their own way.

Wishing you continued good health and a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

PS – This wonderful email arrived yesterday. It reminded me that young people appreciate the work we do and they are willing to join our family of supporters to make a difference. Thank you!

Dear Rabbi Hershey, 
Imagine our pleasure when [our son] asked my husband and I if he could make a donation to Chabad at Wash U! We have been so happy to hear that he has been spending holidays and Shabbats with you […]. Thank you for creating such a welcoming environment for all of the students. Please know that although the donation is coming from our Donor Advised Fund, it is actually a gift from our son. 
Best,
[name]. 

(Update: Oct. 6, 2020)

Thank you for helping students create community and connection in the age of Coronavirus. Sukkot is a time of joyful celebration, and since it is celebrated outdoors, its traditional celebrations are uniquely suited to our current situation. Plus, the weather in St. Louis happens to be gorgeous!

This week, we have a number of special events including: Snacks and Soups at a Sukkah Open House, JewCrew Sushi in the Sukkah, and Shawarma in the Sukkah with Reshit, our Israel Fellow, and Matan Chan, Hebrew lecturer. This is all happening at the extra-large Chabad House Sukkah (click for photo) by advance registration and with limited capacity.

New for this year, we have a mobile-Sukkah on the back of a pick-up truck (click for photo)! This helps us reach both students who live on campus and those in the surrounding neighborhoods. We have already visited the South 40, the Delmar Loop, Clayton, and the Kingsbury/Kingsland area. Soon, we will be at the Dorchester building, in the DeMun area, and wherever young people invite us to bring the Lulav, Etrog, snacks, and hand sanitizer.

We are also planning for this coming weekend - the holiday of Simchat Torah - in which we will rejoice in the completion of another cycle of reading the Torah, and in restarting it from the beginning in a very real reaffirmation of our ongoing commitment to Judaism even in these times of uncertainty. We are still ironing out the details with input from our Infectious Disease Specialist and we will publicize them to students as soon as we can. (Incidentally, we will recite Yizkor during this holiday and I am glad to add names of your loved ones to our service. Please email their Hebrew names to me by Friday at noon.)

Please congratulate your students. As of yesterday, WashU’s Covid-19 “alert level” has gone down a notch from orange to yellow. This is a sign that there are low numbers of cases on campus and that levels in the region are fairly stable. What this also means is that that the many precautions are working and students are taking them seriously. Of course, we continue to be safe and cautious as there is no vaccine or cure available yet, but it is worthwhile to compliment the young people on this accomplishment!

Your support continues to provide the heart and soul of our programming - safe student gatherings - outdoors in the sukkah, at classes, services, and all around campus and in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. While capacity is limited and individual gatherings are smaller, our community is limitless in its warmth and welcome. Thank you, as always.

Best regards,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

(Update: Oct. 2, 2020)

There is so much that I would love to share with you about the past two weeks, but I want to focus on the future: Sukkot, the “time of rejoicing,” begins tonight!

We're gearing up for a very different Sukkot. For the past 18 years, we have gone all out with Sukkahs in different parts of campus and multiple events each day. And this year, who knows? We’re experimenting with new things and we are figuring them out in our new reality.

I see this as a challenge to see if we can really live what we believe. Because I've always believed and said that what we do isn't about the sheer numbers. It's not about huge events with hundreds of people. It's about one single person at a time. One student getting that feeling of home. One person doing a mitzvah. One person igniting an interest and connecting to our heritage.

This year, we get to see if we can really live that. It's hard to go from crowds to quiet (or to smaller crowds). We miss the positive tumult and excitement that come from interacting with so many amazing people at one time. But there's more opportunity than ever before to truly appreciate and embrace the power of each and every student we are able to engage.

This builds on an idea that I touched upon during a (short!) talk on Yom Kippur. Our society is wracked by polarization and division – now more than I ever recall experiencing in the past. The Mitzvah of Sukkah is connected to the concept of peace and unity. The sages of the Talmud state that, “All Israel are fit to dwell in one Sukkah,” for the Sukkah represents the collective gathering of people together. We all fit equally under the same roof. But the Lulav and Etrog, that are in a simple sense a holiday bouquet, highlight the importance of each individual. The varied species can be symbolically understood as representing different aspects and groups of our people – each of which is unique, cannot be missed, and also vital to the whole. Both of these themes, the power of the collective and the uniqueness of the individual are refracted during this holiday and both of these themes speak to our time. 

Back to our holiday plans:

As always, we will have a spacious Sukkah behind the Chabad House. In a Covid-19 twist, it will be bigger than in any previous year; yet, it will host fewer students at any single time. We will be offering multiple time-slots to ensure that every student who wants to participate will have the chance. We will continue to facilitate sit-down meals in the Sukkah and to-go meals, as well as services, classes, and holiday packages. In addition, there will be other events in the Chabad House’s Sukkah with limited capacity including Sushi in the Sukkah and an Israel-themed night.

You may recall that last year we made a Sukkah-bike. This year, in order to support students who live in the neighborhoods around campus and those who live on campus, we are going to have a Sukkah on the back of a UHaul truck! This Mitzvah-mobile will be a first for us and probably for many in our community. We will be bringing along a Lulav and Etrog, prepackaged cookies, and, yes, hand-sanitizer.

We are doing what we can in a complicated reality to bring the joy of the holiday to as many students as feasible. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our High Holiday campaign. Your support is a powerful vote of confidence in our efforts and truly makes a world of difference for many students. Thank you again.

Wishing you and your family a joyous Sukkot and a wonderful Shabbat,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

Ps - I have a request for you: Simchas Torah is next week. Typically this is celebrated by dancing with Torah scrolls. This will need to change during the pandemic so I am looking for ideas. If your community is doing something interesting that we might be able to adopt on campus, please share it with me so we can consider it for our students. Thanks.

(Update: Sep. 26, 2020) 

We live in extraordinary times, and while we wish that the world was healthier and less complicated, we continue to seek opportunities to celebrate, sanctify, and to build community, in a safe manner.

Some quick notes:

  • Students will be able to pray in-person on Yom Kippur. We require advance registration, social distancing, masks, and our capacity is limited. Not to worry, this year we will actually do Kol Nidrei twice so as to include more students!
  • On Yom Kippur morning, I will be leading the Yizkor service, and am glad to include the names of your loved ones. This might be especially helpful to you if you are unable to attend Shul. Please send me an email with the Hebrew names by 4 pm on Sunday afternoon (WashU time).
  • Students can order a lulav and etrog for pick up this week at Chabad in time for Sukkot, and they can sign up for meals in the Sukkah as well.
  • We are finalizing our varied educational programs and courses for the semester. Most launch after the holidays, some earlier. It is going to be great!

Thank you to everyone who has already contributed to our High Holiday appeal. If you haven’t yet and wish for a reminder, here it is: Please support students. It is expensive to run a Chabad House during a pandemic, but we know that young people rely on us – especially now. Thank you again. 

In terms of giving, we want to make it easy. We are able to accept gifts of stocks, support from Donor Advised Funds, gifts made via WashU's University Advancement office, and even gifts of cars (anywhere in the US). Please email Glenna at [email protected] for specifics on any of these.

On behalf of the student community, Chana and our family, and the entire Chabad House Team, I thank you and wish you an easy and meaningful fast. May you be inscribed in the book of life, and may you be blessed with good health and much Nachas this year and always.

G’mar Chatimah Tova!

Rabbi Hershey Novack

(Update: Sep. 14, 2020) 

Congratulations on the start of a new academic year and on the first day of classes WashU! We hope that this year brings with it good health, scholarship, friendship, and meaning for you and your children.

In this email I want to brief you on our Rosh Hashana plans and ask you to submit a short video greeting for a communal project.

We are working on an email with Rosh Hashana specifics for your students, and while we will be hosting a number of events and activities, it is certain that we will not be able to do anything like we have done in previous years. We hope and pray for a vaccine or effective cure, but until then, we need to do our best to be safe and smart while accommodating and supporting as many students as possible. In the words of a WashU administrator, "make plans and hold them lightly." I wish I could say that we have it all figured out, but that is not the case at the moment; instead, we are figuring it out hour-by-hour, one day at a time. Keep in mind that the County or the University could change the current policies and guidelines, or possibly the current alert level, at any time, and that would affect our work. 

Now for the good news, we have set an ambitious goal of attempting to reach out to and offering something for every single interested Jewish student!

  • Yes, holiday meals are going to happen. We will also be providing sign-ups for contactless pickup of 'To-Go' packages which will include Challa, apples and honey, plus other holiday necessities and treats.
  • Yes, we plan for in-person services. In order to maximize safety, we be taking precautions including meeting outdoors with limited capacity, social distancing and masks. We require that each person who wishes to join must register in advance; we cannot accept any walk-in guests for prayer. (Please note that the previous sentence was incredibly painful to write and then to re-read. It flies against our values and practices for the past 18 years. Yet, this is our current reality and we are trying to do our best.) 
  • Yes, on the second day of the holiday, we will bring the sounds of the Shofar to many hundreds! We are planning Shofar blowing in the park, in local neighborhoods, and on campus. We are also developing contingency plans in case that someone ends up in quarantine and would like to hear the Shofar. 

Please encourage your students to sign up at www.chabadwashu.org/rsvp.

Now, for the video:

I want to invite you to join me in a little pre-Rosh Hashana surprise for the student community: Let us pull together and present a short video of wishes for the New Year—from parents to students! Here is what to do to send in a short clip of yourself (parent/s, siblings, pets, etc.) sharing greetings for the New Year. Please keep your clip short at about 10 - 25 seconds. 

Our videographer has provided the following principles of filming:

  • Use the landscape mode (hold the camera horizontally).
  • Make sure that the light is on you or on the object you want to capture, not behind you - you don't want to look like a shadow - you (or the person you are featuring) are supposed to be brighter than the background or anything else in the frame.
  • Make sure to introduce yourself before you speak.
  • Make sure the sound is clear with no background noises - the best way to test it, is to film a few seconds and then play the video back to check if there are any background noises.
  • Try to find a suitable background for your video. If you don't have a suitable background, try to use a clean, solid background.
  • Share your original file through your Google Drive or any other file sharing platform that doesn't damage the file quality like: www.wetransfer.com and send the link to [email protected]

Thank you for your patience, friendship, and support - and for your video clips!

Wishing you a good week,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

(Update: Sep. 9, 2020) 

It is so great to see students and parents coming, and returning, to campus!

It has been a challenging few months for all of us, but we are so happy to be able to welcome everyone back to campus. Just because the campus is slowly re-opening doesn’t mean we are out of the woods; we need to remain vigilant to prevent people from getting and spreading the coronavirus.

Over the summer we have performed some building “renovations” – by which I mean that we have installed a shade sail and tents in the backyard of Chabad to create a safe space for outdoor gatherings. We have also tuck-pointed, painted, and power-washed the carport to enable us to use it.

It is hard to know how this semester will unfold. The body of our program is evolving to meet the needs of students, yet the animating spirit remains consistent: We are here to help young people flourish in a Jewish context. We are working hard to make sure that everyone who wishes to participate is able to, while we follow local guidelines and policies to keep everyone safe and healthy.

We believe that there is an incredible need for connection in an era of social distancing. Please know that we are redoubling our efforts to support young people. This is why we have launched two programs designed to ensure that no one should feel alone.

First-year students should be enrolled in our JewCrew program. The program pairs older students with small groups of first-years to help them acclimate to campus. This year, the program is even more important because of the dearth of on-campus programming.

If your student lives off-campus then they should sign up for “Building Blocks” our brand-new neighborhood program, where we bring a sense of community and connectivity to these students through a loose network of “Mayors” – liaisons to help coordinate individual areas.

In the past, hundreds of students chose to join us for Shabbat; it was the largest gathering of Jewish students each week! Sadly, this will not be happening during the pandemic. Starting this Shabbat, we will be coordinating meals, and hosting services on a smaller scale. Students will need to order their food via Grubhub using dining points or bear bucks (if finances for food are an issue please reach out). Meals will be individually packaged and delivered to campus, Hillel, or Chabad, for pickup (and, we are figuring out delivery to students in quarantine). We hope to host small, masked, outdoor, and physically distanced prayer services for which students will need to RSVP. We also hope to use the backyard behind the Chabad House for small and socially-distanced Shabbat dinners, per the current guidelines of the St. Louis County Health Department. The key is for students to RSVP.

A word of appreciation to our partners in Students Affairs, Campus Life, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Religious Spiritual and Ethical Life, Dining Services, Bon Appetit Catering, and at WashU Hillel, for all the hard work in getting the food aspects of this program off the ground. It takes a village and we thank you.

Yes, we are working on a full schedule for the High Holidays. Our goal is to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus while also providing opportunities to young people. We may need to pray in shifts, and blow the Shofar from a distance. We are still figuring it out based on the best available information.

And lastly, but not least, thank you! Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for supporting students. Thank you for providing social and educational experiences for students. Thank you for supporting Jewish life on campus. You can take pride in knowing that you make a difference in a complicated time.

As always, I can be reached via email and on my cell.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Hershey Novack

(Update: July 31, 2020) 

Yogi Berra, the great philosopher-baseball player and Saint Louisan, once said, “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Obviously, the coronavirus makes predicting the future even tougher.

WashU has released a return-to-campus plan. As we work on the specifics I will focus on the bigger picture. Covid-19 is an incredible disaster with a cost in human lives that is incalculable. Our priority is to care for the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of each member of the community.  Current students know how crucial the Chabad experience is to the campus ecosystem and to empowering hundreds and hundreds to participate in Jewish campus life. Our commitment hasn’t changed; how we carry this out will look different as a result of the pandemic. Our goals include:

  • Providing the resources for students to live Jewishly.
  • Building an inclusive community.
  • Providing opportunities for Jewish inspiration, growth, and exploration.

From the week that WashU closed in-person classes, and throughout this summer, we have been providing resources and support for students in St. Louis, including providing “Shabbat to Go” packages, Passover Seder kits, Mezuzahs, and other requested items to fulfill students’ needs. We have also facilitated Zoom sessions for Jewish learning, community building, Holocaust study, and Israel education. Most importantly, all of our staff has spent a significant amount of time with young people, via Zoom and on the phone, as we all navigate this new reality. Locally, our staff and students have volunteered in numerous ways. We even bottled hand-sanitizer and distributed it and facemasks to the community.

WashU’s plan calls for a return to campus in mid-September which gives us time to closely monitor other campus communities to learn from their experiences as to what works and what doesn’t. We will be informed by the guidance of WashU, the St. Louis County Health Department, and consulting with a local epidemiologist.

Our plans for the semester include a multi-pronged approach that allows for flexibility while operating safely to protect the health of students and staff:

  • We are committed to keeping the Chabad House as open as safely possible.  We are working on reconfiguring the Chabad House space to maximize functionality during the pandemic; however, it is hard to imagine how we will host hundreds for Shabbat dinners in the foreseeable future.
  • For students who live on campus we will provide students with opportunities to live Jewishly. This includes ensuring there are Kosher meals, holiday opportunities, Shabbat experiences, and support from the Chabad staff team. We will also support students who live off campus in numerous ways.
  • We will empower students to create mini-Chabad hubs in their dorms and dwellings. A portion of this will be via virtual programming that will include community building and educational opportunities.
  • We also recognize that there may be increased mental health needs among members of our community and are providing our team members with additional professional development in this area so they can help support students with guidance and referrals.

In this email I have one very important request: If you know of a student registered to attend WashU in the fall, please fill in this form, or send this to them so they may fill it in. It is vital that we have 100% participation in pre-semester sign-ups to ensure that we can prepare.

Please reach out to share any ideas or concerns you may have, and let us know what we can do to support your student. Your knowledge, wisdom, and yes, financial investments, go a long way in building this community and supporting student life. Thank you.

As a campus community that naturally replaces about a quarter of our population each year, we are always innovating and re-inventing our programs to be in-sync with a new generation of college students. This year, we will need to re-invent on a greater scale, of course, and we remain open and flexible to whatever the semester holds.  I know how complicated this period is, and I want to reiterate my belief that with good cheer, hard work, and a bit of faith, we will weather this challenge.

Wishing you and your loved ones only good health, happiness, and success. Good Shabbos.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Hershey

PS – Rosh Hashana is during the first week of the semester, and it is hard to imagine that students will be able to return home to celebrate. I must reiterate how crucial it is to sign up ASAP because there will be no in-person opportunities to register.  If you are not sure if someone has registered, please do them a favor and sign them up at http://chabadwashu.org/signup. Thank you!

(Update: April 3, 2020)

We have placed small bottles of hand sanitizer in a basket in front of the Chabad House at 7018 Forsyth, near Big Bend. Please take one as our gift. Feel free to take for neighbors who are not going out or on Facebook. Please do not hoard or resell.

With hard work, good cheer, and a bit of faith, we will get through this together. 

Will you be in STL for Passover_ (3).png

(Update: April 1, 2020)

If you are going to be in St. Louis during Pesach, please let us know. We can help you get a Seder plate, Hagada, grape juice or wine, and of course, Matza. This is our gift to you.

We can also help you order Passover dinners from Kohns for a discounted price (meat or vegetarian).

We are here for you. 

(Update: March 31, 2020) 

We hope that you are keeping well and you and yours are blessed with health. 

At Chabad WashU we are continuing our work and expanding our scope beyond St. Louis to meet the unprecedented challenges that our community is facing. Here are three opportunities to connect with each other and learn about living life in this new reality.

Covid-19 101 with Dr. Greg Storch. Wednesday evening, 7:30 WashU time. 

A leading WashU epidemiologist on the front lines will share an overview of the novel coronavirus, discuss how St. Louis and the Jewish community are responding, and answer your questions. The goal is to spread knowledge and dispel fears, confusion, and false ideas.

The Two Hour Passover Seder: MasterClass with Chana and Rabbi. Thursday evening, 8 pm WashU time. 

The Chabad College Hall Passover Seder is a joyous celebration that is fast-paced, hits all the important notes, and is meaningful to people of diverse Jewish experiences. We’ll share tips we've learned from leading Seders for over 200+ and what we think might work in a family setting. We'll also be sharing our transliterated song sheets and some other tools you can have on hand during your family Seder. Family members are also invited to join!

Pre-Shabbat Social Hour. Join friends to check-in and wish each other a Shabbat Shalom. Friday afternoon, 5:30 pm WashU time. 

As always, we are here for you — now more than ever,

Blessings all around,

Chana & Rabbi Hershey

PS - If you are in STL, we are here to help. Please reply so we can connect you with all of your Seder needs.

(Update: March 24, 2020) 

These are strange times. To help you navigate the stresses of moving home and re-starting your life, we are pleased to invite you to a special livestream with Carly Sparks of Kinetic Counseling in St. Louis who will share wisdom, insights, and tips.

Coping with Chaos: Sustaining Stability in Turbulent Times. Tonight at 7 pm WashU time (8 pm on the East Coast, 5 pm on the West Coast).

With hard work, good cheer, and a bit of faith, we will get through this – together.

Chana & Rabbi Hershey

(Update: March 22, 2020) 

Dear students,

It is our sincerest hope and prayer that you and yours are feeling well, both physically and emotionally.

Jewish values call upon us to respond to the needs of others, no matter where we find ourselves. It is with this in mind that we invite you to hear from WashU students Alli Hollender and Daniel Peters who have found ways to help in their local communities in the hope that you may glean ideas – and share some of your own.

Student-led workshop: How You Can Make a Difference in Your Community During Coronavirus. Tonight, March 22, at 7 pm WashU time (8 pm EST).

Obviously, we must listen to the health authorities to do whatever it takes to protect ourselves and all those around us. At the same time, we are committed to doing everything in our power to help locally and nationally. We are here for you and with you. 

Sincerely yours,

Chana R. & Rabbi Hershey Novack

(Update: March 19, 2020)

Dear students,

Exciting news: You can bring the flavors and scents of Shabbat at Chabad into your own home! Tomorrow (Friday 3/20) at 11 am WashU time, we will be livestreaming a Challah bake from our kitchen — and you are invited to join in. You can watch of course, or for the full experience, join from wherever you are and bake-along.

We’re working out the kinks on streaming, so please bear with us. We’ll post the streaming details on our Facebook page about an hour before we go live. Check www.FB.com/chabadwashu for details.

If you want to join in the fun, collect the following items before we begin. Please engage is social distancing in order to help keep everyone safer, so don’t make an extra trip out of the house to get these ingredients.

1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
2 tablespoons instant dry quick rising yeast

1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
3 eggs
7 cups bread flour (if possible high gluten)

1 egg for egg wash

You'll also need a large bowl and some counter space for mixing and then shaping the dough, a baking pan or sheet, and an oven.

Hope to see you then!

With hard work, good cheer, and a bit of faith, we will emerge from this better and stronger.

Chana R. and Rabbi Hershey

Coming next week:

Student-led workshop: How You Can Make a Difference in Your Community During Coronavirus
    Sunday evening, March 22, 7 PM CST
    Alli Hollender (Class of ’21), Daniel Peters (Class of ’21), and Asher Katz, Moderated by Rabbi Hershey

Coping with Chaos: Sustaining Stability in Turbulent Times
    Tuesday evening, March 24, 7 pm CST
    Featuring Carly Sparks, MSW, LCSW of Kinetic Counseling

(Update: March 17, 2020)

Dearest students,

At times like these, we lean on community. The dictionary has two definitions for the term community: A group of people living in proximity to each other, and a group of people with shared attitudes, interests, identities, and purposes.

Our incredible campus community has always been more than a number of individuals who live near each other; you are a group of people with shared attitudes, interests, identities, and purposes. Therefore, when young people are compelled to leave St. Louis, even in an abrupt and painful manner, our need for community continues – and in fact, can be relied upon – to help support you in this time of uncertainty.

To that end, we are implementing the following projects that we are calling “Chabad WashU at Home.” This will bring our community to you, wherever you are.

• Our team is available for video chats or telephone calls.
• Our regular in-person classes will move online and will follow the WashU academic calendar, which means that we will begin after the extended spring break concludes.
• As our large on-campus Seders have been canceled, we are going to teach a masterclass with our best strategies for leading your own Seder.
• We had several exciting speakers planned for the rest of the semester and are working to bring them online.
• We are going to be launching some new online classes, depending on feasibility and interest. Imagine a new class on genealogy, a pre-Shabbat cooking show, some rich Torah wisdom, and so forth.

It appears that some students are planning to remain in St. Louis. To help support this community, we have started an online chat to support each other, people nearby, and the community at large—while sharing relevant local information and best practices. If you are here, please let us know, and we will add you to the group.

As our community moves online, the physical Chabad House is closed to social activities. We are following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and local public health agencies to minimize risk to ourselves and especially to others. To keep everyone safe, we:

1. Are cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in the Chabad house often, and providing local students with hand sanitizer and basic needs as we are able,
2. Are aggressively practicing social distancing, which enables us to be role models for our students,
3. Are quickly moving our team to virtual spaces to allow our work to continue no matter what tomorrow brings.

Wherever you are – and wherever we are – our team is here for you. With hard work, good cheer, and a bit of faith, we have confidence that our community will emerge from this stronger.

We share heartfelt prayers that we get through this challenge quickly, and that G‑d blesses us all with an abundance of health, peace, and prosperity,

Sincerely yours,

Chana R. & Rabbi Hershey Novack

(Update: March 11, 2020) 

Dear students,

There is no doubt that the news of WashU's extended spring break and cancellation of all in-person face-to-face classes is creating concern and uncertainty.

Chabad at WashU is not just a physical place; at our core we are a community and family. This continues wherever you are. We are here for you and are available for practical assistance, advice, or just someone to talk to. If you are still in St. Louis, or anywhere, and you need help to access food, shelter, or Jewish needs, please let us know.

As always, we are committed to being a consistent beacon of hope and support. You may be “exiled” at the moment, but please know that we miss you and are eagerly anticipating your return to campus. With large in-person gatherings constrained, this is an opportunity for your leadership, for positive investment with your family, friends, and community.

We also encourage you to find ways to maintain your spiritual well-being. As Jews, we perform actions to express our identity and values. This is even more crucial in times like these. Try to dedicate some of your newfound “spare” time to learning, prayer, and to looking out for people who need a helping hand physically or emotionally.

As WashU classes move on-line, we will ramp up efforts to offer Jewish learning opportunities and to build community through online mediums. If you are currently enrolled in a class at Chabad, we will be organizing virtual classrooms (you will receive an email soon with information about how to log in).

Let’s seek to maintain faith and good cheer. B'ezrat Hashem - with G‑d's help - we will all get through this together, and our community and society will bounce back from this stronger than ever.

With best wishes for good health,

Chana R. & Rabbi Hershey Novack