corona-5199233_640.jpg(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