By Camille Furst
Music flooded the room as participants got up from their seats and danced in celebration of tradition, community and Judaism. While cherishing the past and looking toward the future, members of the Chabad community at the College cultivated an atmosphere of laughter and joy during their bar mitzvah celebration created to honor of the organization’s 13th year as a recognized student organization on campus.
While a bar mitzvah is a Jewish tradition in which individuals celebrate a boy’s coming-of-age at 13 years old, Chabad used this to symbolize the celebration of the organization’s 13th year of existence at the College. The event was held in the Education Building Room 212 on Sunday, March 3 at 1 p.m.
“When you are Jewish, you celebrate a Bar Mitzvah when you’re 13 years old, so that was the point of this event,” said Sarah Goldstein, a junior special education and iSTEM dual major and member of Chabad. “This event is pretty awesome I think because it’s our 13th anniversary on campus. It’s just a little home away from home.”
The event began with the official donation of a Torah, the Jewish holy scripture, from Aliza Scheinfeld and her family to Chabad in memory of her husband, who recently died. Scheinfeld’s nephew is Rabbi Akiva Greenbaum, the adviser for the campus organization.
“(The Torah) takes over a year to write, so we are so grateful,” she said. “And so here we are. The more we use the Torah, the more we do good deeds in his memory, (and) the greater the happiness of his soul.”
While keeping with the theme of bar mitzvah celebrations, Chabad honored the belated bar mitzvah of one student at the College. Freshman economics major Zach Sperling had his bar mitzvah during the event since he wasn’t able to celebrate when he turned 13. During the ceremony, Rabbi Greenbaum clothed him in the traditional garb that bar mitzvah boys wear in honor of their milestone – a white shawl, known as tzitzit, and black leather phylacteries called tefillin.
“(This tradition) symbolizes the connection that we have to our past, which is so valuable,” Rabbi Greenbaum said. “If you don’t know what you’re coming from, how do you know where you’re going to?”
He began to describe how the bar mitzvah emphasizes the purpose of every individual. It is a symbol that “we are part of something larger than ourselves.”
Once the ceremony concluded, the dancing commenced. Dozens of audience members got up from their seats to dance together in circles and celebrate Chabad’s and Sperling’s milestone. Many lifted Sperling up on a chair, which often happens at Jewish celebrations. Roscoe the Lion even joined in on the celebration, which added excitement to the event.
Junior psychology major and Chabad member Angelo Di Cori emphasized the importance of this sense of community in his life.
“Judaism to me, if you have to sum it up in one word, is family,” he said. “Both of my parents are Jewish (and) I grew up with very strong Jewish roots. Although we are not actually blood related, to me, all Jews are one family so I’m here to support my family.”
The event concluded with an award ceremony for community members who have helped Chabad grow for the past 13 years, which included the founding brothers and sisters of Chabad at the College.
“The Jewish people have a rich history of overcoming challenges and everybody in their own life has their personal challenges,” Rabbi Greenbaum said. “(Judaism) means that we are here to make the world a better place, and we are well on the way.”