Chabad on Campus: A Strategic Investment In Our Jewish Future

When 22 Chabad on Campus centers handed over thousands of email addresses of alumni to Professors Mark Rosen and Steven M. Cohen, it was a leap of faith. They had no way of knowing what information the professors would learn from their new sources. The team of leading researchers had set out to study broadly for the very first time, the impact that Chabad on Campus is having on its participants, and they were determined to publish the results, whatever they turned out to be. The study, commissioned and funded by the Hertog foundation, gathered data from over 2,400 participants.

The results of the study were finally released in September, revealing conclusively the transformative impact that Chabad on Campus has had on thousands of young Jews during and after their university years.

As the Executive Vice President of Chabad on Campus International, I’ve seen firsthand the enormous dedication of Shluchim and Shluchos on college and university campuses around the globe. I’ve also heard hundreds of stories from students whose lives were touched deeply by Chabad. With the results of this study showing that Chabad consistently creates an impact on young Jewish lives across the spectrum, everyone concerned with the future of world Jewry should now sit up and take a closer look.

Over 1200 college students from around the world gather for Havdalah at the 13th annual Chabad on Campus International student shabbaton in NY.
Over 1200 college students from around the world gather for Havdalah at the 13th annual Chabad on Campus International student shabbaton on November 19th in New York.

The Hertog Study analyzed the post-college Jewish activity of students with varying levels of participation with Chabad on Campus during their college years. The post-college Jewish behaviors included critical life-choices, such as dating and marrying Jews, broad communal involvement and volunteering, celebration of Jewish holidays, attachment to Israel, belief in G‑d, participation in Jewish learning, donating to Jewish causes, and even synagogue dues. The study concluded that in every area, the difference between those who had high participation in Chabad on Campus compared to those with little to no participation was significant. For example, charitable contributions (tzedakah) made to Jewish organizations by recent graduates (under 25) was approximately 30% higher among those who actively participated in Chabad programming in college. Equally impressive was the fact that this number remained as high among older graduates (26-29) as well.

I believe that this success can be attributed to the amazing families and staff who run the campus Chabad Houses. I am humbled by these dynamic husband-and-wife teams who open their hearts and homes to young students, creating a warm and loving environment that many students and alumni refer to as their “home away from home.”

Rabbi Dov Wagner, co-director of Chabad at USC, poses with a group of students in New York at the 13th annual Chabad on Campus International student shabbaton.
Rabbi Dov Wagner, co-director of Chabad at USC, poses with a group of students in New York at the 13th annual Chabad on Campus International student shabbaton.

In fact, according to the study, developing a personal relationship with the Shliach and Shlucha couple is the main impetus for greater participation. Their personal touch and the genuine love that they instill into their work sits at the heart of the Chabad on Campus program and is the catalyst for the relationship continuing long after the college experience concludes. The Hertog Study reported 60% of Chabad on Campus high-level participants had some form of post-college contact with their campus Shliach/Shlucha in the previous year.

Furthermore, the study showed that the myth that Chabad on Campus exists only for Orthodox students is entirely not the case. 88% of participants at Chabad were raised in a household that was not Orthodox. While it is true that on many campuses Chabad is the only source of kosher food, Shabbat and holiday services and therefore attracts students from traditional backgrounds, the study demonstrated that those who experience the biggest impact are from those who grew up in less traditional and non-observant households.

A student who was raised Reform and becomes active with Chabad on campus will see his or her post-college Jewish engagement more than double compared to a similar peer who does not participate in Chabad at college. Among those raised with no denomination, the percentage who married someone Jewish was 78 percent after participating at Chabad. These percentages are much higher than the general Jewish population ages 21-29.

At universities across the country every day, thousands of individual encounters are taking place between Shluchim/Shluchos and students. These interactions are driven by simple Ahavat Yisrael, a love and concern for the material and spiritual welfare of a fellow Jew. As this study has shown, these interactions are creating a very real impact that is shaping the future Jewish identity of these students and of the Jewish community as a whole.

These hard numbers must be looked at in the context of American Jewry’s legitimate concern for its Jewish future.

Fredrick and Karen Schaufeld along with Rabbi Zalman and Yehudit Greenberg, co-directors of Rohr Chabad at Lehigh University, cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony of the Joachim Schaufeld Center for Jewish Life on October 30, 2016.
Fredrick and Karen Schaufeld along with Rabbi Zalman and Yehudit Greenberg, co-directors of Rohr Chabad at Lehigh University, cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony of the Joachim Schaufeld Center for Jewish Life on October 30, 2016.

Chabad on Campus has grown extensively around the world in the past two decades. Prior to 2000, there were less than 30 Chabad Houses exclusively focused on students on American college campuses. Today, in addition to 250 campuses that are served by Chabad on a part-time basis, full-time professionally staffed Chabad on Campus student centers operate at 198 American campuses (264 internationally).

The average cost of opening a new Chabad on Campus center is less than $100,000, with an annual operating budget that tends to be 50% less than the budget of Jewish community centers of equal size. Considering these economical costs and impactful results, it is clear that supporting the local Chabad on Campus center is the best possible investment you can make into the future of Judaism. Studying this report you can be sure that the returns you will see on your investment will far exceed any similar investments.

About the Author
Rabbi Yossy Gordon is the Executive Vice-President of Chabad on Campus International. He makes his home in Miami Beach with his wife Rochel and their children.
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