June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Newark Chabad Leans In to Post Oct. 7 Growth

Rabbi Avraham Minsky leads a lunch-and-learn class at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine in November 2023.

Chabad outreach centers are in the business of creating consistent growth. Sometimes, though, a Chabad’s rate of growth will surprise even the shaliach on the scene.

The Newark, New Jersey Chabad is led by Rabbi Avraham and Mushka Minsky. Rabbi Minsky was born in Paris and raised in Brooklyn. He received semicha in 2015 and has done kiruv work in Morocco, Paris, Nigeria, Ghana, and in other areas. Rebbetzin Minsky grew up in Port Washington, New York, where her parents serve as directors of the Chabad of Port Washington. She has pursued a career in Jewish education in schools across the tri-state area. The Minskys moved to Newark in May 2021 and now have four daughters.

The Newark Chabad’s activities are primarily focused on serving undergraduate and graduate students at seven schools in the city. In addition, they also serve business professionals working in firms in Newark.

In the nearly three years they’ve been in Newark, the Minskys have established a schedule of programs that attract dozens of regular attendees and many intermittent visitors as well. The programs include monthly lunch-and-learn programs in one of the large downtown firms, festive Shabbat and holiday meals, a mezuzah campaign, Chabad days at the New Jersey Devils games, tabling and lunch-and-learns on college campuses, and more.

(l-r): NJIT Dean Marybeth Boger; President Teik C. Lim; and his wife, Gina, took a tour of the Newark Chabad facility with Rebbetzin and Rabbi Minsky (and their little one) in December 2023.

Since the horrific attacks of October 7 and the subsequent Israel/Hamas war in Gaza, the Newark Chabad has seen a dramatic rise in interest in Jewish activities on the college and graduate school campuses. As Rabbi Minsky described it, “They are thirsty [for Yiddishkeit] like I’ve never seen before.”

Before the recent war, Newark Chabad would host an information table at each campus—New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) undergraduate and graduate schools, Rutgers-Newark undergraduate school, Rutgers Law School, Seton Hall Law School, Rutgers Dental School and Rutgers Medical School—once every six to eight weeks.

Now, Rabbi Minsky holds an event at each graduate/law/medical school once every three to four weeks. He is also hosting an information table in the campus center at each school every four to six weeks, where he gives out pastries, offers Shabbat candles, and enlists students to put on Tefillin. He estimates that he meets with 20 to 30 students each time he hosts an information table.

Rabbi Avraham and Rebbetzin Mushka Minsky with two of their daughters.

Students in the NJIT undergraduate school wanted more Jewish activities, so the rabbi hosts information tables on that campus once every two to three weeks. The response has been remarkable. Rabbi Minsky said: “A lot of Jewish students are coming up to me; I’m not searching hard for them. They’re eager to talk to someone who is identifiably Jewish.” These tables often attract up to 40 students.

Additionally, with the assistance of faculty member Dr. David Fischer, a forensic science professor, Rabbi Minsky formed a Chabad Club that meets at NJIT regularly.

The NJIT Chabad Club holds text-based discussions on contemporary topics such as “What is our right to the Land of Israel?” and “Is being anti-Israel antisemitism?” Rabbi Minsky invites free and open discussion and brings Torah sources into the conversations. The discussions usually last 90 minutes and often attract up to 20 students, sometimes more. At other times, the Chabad Club does “fun stuff,” such as a recent tour of an ice cream factory in Newark.

Reflecting on the growth of Jewish activities at NJIT and the other schools, Rabbi Minsky stated: “A lot of students feel like they’re getting a wake-up call. They see the hatred of Jews on their campus and realize their own limited Jewish backgrounds. They ask themselves: ‘Why do I get this hate?’ They sense that there must be more to Judaism. So they want to learn more.”

Rabbi Minsky elaborated: “Even on campuses where there are not big demonstrations, Jewish students are finding that their left-wing friends are putting hateful anti-Israel and antisemitic messages on their social media pages. They’re also putting similar messages on group pages, including some connected with academics. The Jewish students feel isolated but must still sit next to their former study mates in class. This has caused Jewish students to lose their whole social circle and pushed them to seek out other Jews. And this leads them to Chabad.”

Rabbi Avraham Minsky with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka at a Chanukah celebration in December 2023.

One of the students in the Chabad Club, Assaf Izhar—a first-year computer science student at NJIT—shared with The Jewish Link the positive spirit that Newark Chabad brings to his campus. “When I first arrived on campus, I immediately began to search for the Jewish community. To my luck, one day while walking through the campus, I was approached by Rabbi Minsky, who started to talk to me about Newark Chabad and invited me to get involved. Whenever he is on campus, the rest of my Jewish friends and I always try to stop by, talk, and put on Tefillin.

“I have been invited to Shabbat dinners, lunch-and-learns, and even hockey games by Chabad, which all help me feel more connected to the Jewish community right on my campus,” Izhar continued. “Recently, we have also started an official Chabad Club on NJIT’s campus, where we can hopefully continue to build our community of Jewish students. I’m very grateful to the Newark Chabad for allowing me to continue to be connected to my Jewish identity, even while being away from home at university.”

Harry Glazer is the Middlesex County Editor of The Jewish Link. He is a huge fan of Chabad and jumps at an opportunity to cover their exceptional work. Harry can be reached at [email protected]

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