Not mission impossible: Chabad often a strong presence on campus

When Orthodox rapper Matisyahu visited the U.C. Berkeley campus in March, the local Chabad teamed with Hillel to welcome the nationally known celeb.

Rabbi Yehuda Ferris said about 100 students showed up for the Friday night dinner. Ferris and his wife, Miriam, are no strangers to the campus scene.

Like other Chabads in the Bay Area, they have long welcomed students into the Chabad fold.

Ferris is proud of the warm environment he and Miriam, who co-directs Chabad of the East Bay and U.C. Berkeley, have fostered for the last 25 years.

Ferris said 40 to 50 students come to their home for services and dinner each week.

There are plans to expand Chabad’s programming as well. In the coming year, Chabad will welcome a new on-campus rabbi and a new course on kosher cooking, an addition to the range of courses already offered on such topics as Jewish medical ethics and intimacy.

Funding for the new rabbi and other Chabad programs on college campuses comes from philanthropist George Rohr of the Rohr Family Foundation, Ferris said.

“You can expect to see a lot more Chabad [on all campuses],” he added.

Though attracting Jewish college students to Jewish organizations can be ” mission impossible,” Yehuda and Miriam Ferris insist they can reach all Jewish students.

“We’re not going to rest until every Jewish student is connected to their essence,” Miriam said.

— rachel marder