Jewish Life on Campus: Realistic Optimism

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Ben Zieff
Ben Zieff (First Year) joins the Chabad on Campus family

We’re writing this as O-week has just ended on University Campuses around the city. There is an electric energy in the air amongst the student community. It’s a raw energy with so many different feelings, from excitement around new beginnings to nervousness of the unknown that comes with new beginnings.

For Ariella and me, the most exciting part is the Chabad Tent on Jammie plaza (UCT) where we meet first year students shopping around for a society/club to join. We get all sorts of reactions from relief “phew, I’ve found my tribe”, to “hmmm….I’m not so sure about this, I may just wanna take a break from my yids after 12 years in Jewish Day School”.  (In our experience, those ones tend to come back in second year, quite happy to be home.)

But what energises us most is the feedback we get from students — First years to Post Grad — for why so many choose to join Chabad on Campus. We ask a question in each application: “What are you looking to gain by joining this community?”

I’ll share just a few of the answers here:

I want to help myself and other Jewish students feel and stay connected with their Judaism. 

I hope to be able to maintain a strong connection to my Jewish identity whilst pursuing my degree in an otherwise secular environment.

A wife 😉

A sense of community and a place to stay connected to my spirituality.

A connection to my fellow Jews and to help with Jewish matters on campus.

Ash’s chocolate chip cookies.

I would love to meet other Jewish students and be part of a Jewish family.

A sense of community.

So there you have it. I hope this helps a little to dispel the (very toxic) notion in our community, that “Our youth are apathetic”. They are not! Students are thirsty for Yiddishkeit, for connection, for community and a sense of belonging. And my letter count is running out so I want to end off by thanking each and every one of our partner families in Cape Town (you know who you are) for supporting our students and our special community. 

May Hashem bless us all with lots of Yiddishe Nachas from our children (and ourselves)!

Rabbi Nissen & Ariella Goldman

Find Chabad on Campus on Facebook /JewCT

To read or download the full March issue PDF of the Chronicle, click here

To read the Editor’s column for March, click here

To read the most read article of the February issue, click here

Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here

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