Chabad comes to Miami U.
By Miriam Karp, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer
A moving truck rolled into Oxford, Ohio in November. Just another day at busy Miami University, where students, faculty and campus staff are often in transition?
Rabbi Yossi Greenberg and his wife, Mushka, are the age of young graduate students or faculty, but these residents of Foxfire Drive have a different look and reason for coming to town: they’ve opened a Chabad House to serve the Miami University community.
Yossi and Mushka, together with their toddler, Akiva, are Chabad shluchim (emissaries). Their task is to strengthen Jewish identity on campus and provide, in their words, “a home away from home” for students.
Yossi and Mushka are both Brooklyn natives; like many Chabad youths, they were raised on the ethos of Jewish education and ahavas Yisrael, love and dedication for their fellow Jews.
They’ve each worked extensively in camps and schools around the globe. Mushka is a graduate of Beth Chana Teacher’s Seminary in Israel. She spent a year working under the supervision of her uncle, Rabbi Berel Lazar, chief rabbi of Russia, where she taught in the Moscow Jewish School.
Yossi graduated from the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva. He first spent time in Ohio several years ago, when he worked as a mentor figure to yeshiva students ages 13-17 in Cincinnati.
“I developed many ties with rabbis and community members,” Yossi relates. “After I got married, we began looking into various outreach positions. Our passion is youth, ‘cause that’s where it’s at, and where the future is at. We knew about the success of Chabad on other campuses in Ohio, and started doing research, talking with people in New York and Oxford, and forming plans for a center at Miami. We are very fortunate to have guidance from rabbis in Cincinnati and Dayton. Rabbi Nochum Mangel of Chabad of Greater Dayton is graciously mentoring us, so that we can plant healthy roots and lay a strong foundation.”
Miami, with a total student population of about 15,000, has approximately 1,000 Jewish students.
“We are looking forward to partnering with the entire Oxford community to make Jewish life that much more diverse and rich, and provide many exciting social, educational and leadership opportunities,” Yossi says.
The Greenbergs got settled just in time for Chanukah. Together with the Hillel at Miami, they co-sponsored a well-attended public menorah lighting in the center of Uptown.
Since then, students have remarked, “Oh, you’re the rabbi from the menorah lighting. Nice.”
Yossi says students have been welcoming. “It’s not always considered that cool to be Jewish on a college campus, so when they see me walking around with a yarmulke, it helps them stand straighter and feel confidence in who they are. Many have said, ‘Wow! We didn’t know that Chabad was here.’”
A family environment is something students really savor. “We live right here and are available pretty much 24/7,” Yossi says.
“The students enjoy Akiva’s toddling around, seeing the example of a young, happily married couple, and having a homey place to hang out. Just last week, a student we invited had to cancel because of the flu. Mushka appeared at her dorm door with a care package of delicious chicken soup. She was shocked — and touched.”
They also offer students traditional Shabbat and holiday meals at their home, and Yossi leads a Talmud class.
The Greenbergs will have the challenge of establishing a financial base of support among parents and alumni.
“People that care about Jewish continuity will step forward and help us in making this happen,” Yossi says. “This is our response to the widely-discussed Pew Report: helping build knowledgeable, passionate and proud Jewish youth, the leaders of tomorrow.”
While each Chabad center is self-supporting, the 200-plus campus emissaries network, share resources, and ideas.
“I’ve already had students introduce themselves who met Chabad when they were on exchange programs in Taiwan and Hong Kong,” Yossi says. “They’re delighted to find us here, and we’re excited to be here for them.”
For more information about the Chabad Jewish Student Center at Miami University, go to chabadmiamioh.com.