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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brandeis students raise big bucks for Chabad

Waltham Chabad hosts gala dinner

At its Feb. 10 gala dinner in a large hall at Lexington Chabad
House, nearly 100 Brandeis University students raised more than
$30,000 for the Waltham house.
Run by Rabbi Peretz and his wife Chanie
Chein out of their home across the street
from campus, the Waltham house
operates on a shoestring budget, hosting
crowded weekly Shabbat dinners and
holiday celebrations and offering a series
of classes as part of their iLearn series.
The house was established in 2001, and
the gala was the first of its kind. All
proceeds raised from the event will fund
operating expenses such as the cost of
food and a modest living for the rabbi.
There is a small fee for the popular classes offered at the house
throughout the week in which a reported 90 students are currently
enrolled.
“Chabad House is independently funded and we receive no major
contributions from donors or institutions,” said Chein, whose
students address him by his first name. “The people we serve don’t
have the ability to support our costs and that makes fundraising
extremely challenging.”
Relying only on small donations from people who come to the
house often, Chein said the house has operated under a deficit over
the last few years and there needs to be ways to support the work
they do. The gala itself was conceived and planned entirely by
seniors Cindy Kaplan and Yael Klein with help from other students,
including sophomore Lily Namanworth.
And despite the ice storm that night, close to 100 people attended
the fundraiser, paying the rather steep price of $180 a ticket.
Though shy of the 120 expected, in addition to the $31,000 raised,
someone reportedly made an additional pledge of $20,000.
What’s the attraction?
“Personal relationships and personal interaction,” said Chein, 32,
recalling a recent conversation with a 2004 Brandies graduate who
called to say hello and talk. “It develops and evolves and gets
people interested. That’s why they’ll come in big numbers. Everyone
feels special and important. We’re engaging, speak to important
issues and people of all backgrounds feel comfortable here.”
“We love Chanie and Peretz,” said Namanworth. “Every Friday
there’s a dinner at their house with something like 150 people.
They’re constantly giving to us and being there for the students.”
With a strong Reform, Conservative and Orthodox community,
Chein said Chabad is still able to have large dinners without
decreasing involvement in Hillel and other Jewish organizations on
campus.
“The number of those not engaged far exceeds those that are,”
Chein said. “When Chabad arrived we created a different model
and attracted those who were not engaged.”
He said the model starts with a “principle belief in the innate value
of every Jew regardless of, not despite, their current level of
engagement and observance.”
He said his goal and responsibility is to move everyone who walks
through his door forward from where they were before.
“As long as they’re moving forward, the individual answer is
different for everybody,” Chein said.
Senior Cindy Jacobs, who was raised Orthodox in New York, said
she’s been going to the house for Shabbat dinner and classes since
her sophomore year
“I hadn’t been happy at other places I’d gone before and a friend
told me about Chabad,” Jacobs said. “I’ve never had the experience
where I could consider a rabbi a friend. Peretz and Chanie are
amazing. Their door is always open and it’s a place where I can be
the kind of Jew I want to be. It’s important to have an anchor and
somewhere to go that feels like home.”

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