Jewish Scholars at Rutgers Chabad

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NEW BRUNSWICK — Chabad House at Rutgers University recently hosted its first ever “Jon Shevell – Sinai Scholars” Graduation Ceremony. The ceremony marked the culmination of a ten week intensive study program focusing on the “Thirteen Fundamental Principles of Jewish Faith” defined by Rambam (Maimonides) (1135-1204 CE).

Over the course of the program, participating students analyzed and discussed the Thirteen Principles in depth together with supplementary texts from the Talmud, traditional Jewish philosophy, and Chasiddic philosophy under the leadership of the program’s creator Rabbi Shaya Shagalow of Chabad at Rutgers.


Shagalow says choosing the topic of study for the program was simple. “Maimonides himself writes in the concluding paragraph of the 13 Principles, that he compiled this work from amongst the great works of the sages, for the contribution it will make to our practical faith. What could possibly be a better topic to cover?” The program catered to a diverse array of students ranging from beginners who only recently discovered their Jewish identity, to lifelong observant Jews who received a thorough Yeshivah education and lived in Israel.

From January 2011 through April, Rutgers students attended ten weekly two-hour sessions. Each session opened with in-depth analysis and interactive discussion of the provided materials lead by Rabbi Shagalow followed by a fully catered dinner. During the second portion of each session, the students were treated to an array of visiting Rabbis, providing a unique perspective on contemporary issues relating to the material addressed in the first portion of the session.

Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, Executive Director of Chabad at Rutgers, and Chabad activities in Central and Southern Jersey, says “When Chabad House was founded in 1978, who could imagine that one day we would sponsor such a structured educational program and a well-developed advanced curriculum – complete with a graduation ceremony?”

The program was made possible through a generous grant from trucking executive, and philanthropist Mr. Myron “Mike” Shevell, and is dedicated to the memory of his son Jon Shevell whose untimely passing ended his short but full life devoted to Torah study and good deeds. It was announced by Shevell, at the 32nd Anniversary National Founders Dinner of Chabad.

Long a second home to Rutgers’ ever-growing Jewish student population, Chabad at Rutgers – the world’s largest Chabad House – located at 170 College Avenue, has been the centerpiece of Jewish life at Rutgers University for the last 33 years. With Chabad’s traditional ‘no judgment’ approach to outreach, Chabad Campus Rabbi Goodman and his fellow staff assist countless students from varied backgrounds to thrive socially, academically, and spiritually, providing a relaxed and stable respite from the rigors of campus life. At Chabad students can find free kosher Shabbat meals attended by up to five hundred Jewish students every week, regular Jewish get-togethers, and traditionally themed and social events.

Chabad also has a full-service centrally located women’s dormitory (the men’s dormitory is currently under construction and will open its doors for the fall semester of 2011) and a 3-meals-a-day kosher meal plan, offers free student counseling, and runs a program that encourages students to participate in regular scheduled visits to Jewish patients in local hospitals and nursing homes. Elan Gorshein, Chabad’s Student Director of Hospital Visitations, describes how Chabad allowed him to remain comfortable with his outlook on religion while providing “the opportunity to socialize primarily with other Jewish students.”

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Photo Captions:

Chabad Rabbis Shaya Shagalow, Baruch Goodman, Mike Shevell, Yosef Carlebach, Mendel Carlebach and Graduating Class of The Jon Shevell Sinai Scholars Program

Rabbi Shaya Shagalow addresses Graduation Ceremony

Myron “Mike” Shevell addressing the Graduation Ceremony

Mike Shevell receiving “Certificate of Appreciation” from Rabbis at Chabad

Rabbi Shagalow teaching weekly seminar of “Jon Shevell Sinai Scholars Program”

Renowned Nuclear Physicist Dr. Herman “Chaim” Presby addresses the “Jon Shevell Sinai Scholars Program”

Ariel Pedoeem receives Graduation Certificate, Financial Stipend, and gift of Torah Books from Mike Shevell, and staff of Chabad Rabbis

(Photos courtesy of Chabad House)

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