Peretz Chein
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Here to disrupt

The group's goal on campus is not to recruit new members but to inspire an unapologetic search for authenticity

After fourteen years our mission has never been clearer.

Since our arrival at Brandeis in 2001 we have encountered two types of reactions to Chabad. Some people love and appreciate Chabad while some are skeptical and dismiss Chabad.

Chabad is a wonderful organization that offers an exceptional service to many people. It is a home away from home, a warm Shabbat dinner, and in general a non-judgemental environment that is welcoming to all. That is why Chabad has earned the love, respect and support of so many.

Long before Chabad was an organization, with the first Chabad house established in 1969 at UCLA, it was a philosophy that evolved into a movement and community.

During the latter half of the 1700s in Russia, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi established the mystical/philosophical school of Chabad. The school quickly evolved into a movement and a community.

Today there are large Chabad communities in Brooklyn and Israel, with many smaller communities across the globe. In each community Chabad has its own synagogues, schools, and even its own prayer book, amongst other distinctive customs. That is why some are suspicious that the organization Chabad seeks to recruit members to its movement and community, and so they reject Chabad.

Both the lovers and rejectors of Chabad have it wrong.

To the Chabad lovers: Before our arrival in 2001 there were wonderful services being provided for the Jewish students at Brandeis, and they continue to be served by dedicated organizations. We did not move to Waltham to offer another service to the Brandeis community.

To the Chabad rejecters: Since 2001 only a handful of the thousands of students we engaged have joined the Chabad community. By our skeptic’s measure, Chabad of Brandeis is a failure.

So what is our mission? What makes us different than other Jewish organizations? How do we measure our success?

Simply put, we are here to disrupt. Or to use the Hebrew/biblical term the Lubavitcher Rebbe coined as a motto, UfaRatzTa (disrupt).

To be clear, we use the word disrupt as it’s used in reference to disruptive technologies, which are defined as innovations that disrupt an existing market. Well known examples are Apple, Google and Facebook, all having positively disrupted our lives and the world.

Predicated on G-d as the core of everything and every person’s humanity and Divinity, UfaRatzTa is the awareness of one’s humanity and the pursuit to achieve Divinity.

This requires growing, evolving and ultimately reaching new heights. It’s not settling for what is and what you have, but to want more. It’s to have the courage to recognize deficiencies and vulnerabilities, and the further courage to address them by pursuing new and sometimes bold initiatives.

The first and likely the most challenging step in this pursuit is being authentic. Authentic to yourself by being aware and coming to terms with who you are. Authentic to others by not concealing who you are. And finally, authentic to your goals by having the courage to pursue them.

Sadly authenticity is often buried beneath habit, frozen by the anxiety of what others may say, numbed by complacencies and worst of all, lost by indifference. UfaRatzTa is to penetrate through the obstacles.

The message of UfaRatzTa is equally relevant to someone who discovered they are Jewish upon arrival at Brandeis or someone who arrived at Brandeis after studying for two years at a Yeshiva in Israel. Everyone is handicapped by habit or anxiety of what others may say. Everyone needs to UfaRatzTa {disrupt}. And everyone’s UfaRatzTa is distinctively unique.

As members of the Chabad movement and deeply steeped in its philosophy, we consider it our moral responsibility to UfaRatzTa our lives in order to bring UfaRatzTa into the lives of others. We moved to a place isolated from our families and community, are raising our children there, and are dependant on disruptable donations. This place was Waltham, Massachusetts and Brandeis University.

Some viewed our arrival 14 years ago and subsequent disruption as destructive and some continue to view it so. Yet for thousands of students, alumni, and parents, this disruption is cherished, loved and supported.

So while the philosophy is Chabad, the movement/community is Chabad-Lubavitch (Lubavitch being the town in Russia where four of the seven leaders resided), the organization is UfaRatzTa — a value unique to Chabad.

In every community Chabad will bring UfaRatzTa in a different form. In a remote part of the globe it’s by providing kosher food and a warm Jewish place because no one else will settle there with their family. In another, it’s a synagogue or Hebrew School that is Chasidic and novel to that community.

At Brandeis it’s to touch young people at a point in their lives when they are establishing their independence and sense of individuality so that they pursue lives of authenticity, positive disruption and continuous growth.

Our success is measured by how many have experienced UfaRatzTa in their lives, and we won’t rest until the ultimate UfaRatzTa is achieved with the coming of the Moshiach, speedily in our days.

About the Author
HaShliach Rabbi Peretz Chein is co-director of the Chabad House at Brandeis University, which he co-founded with his wife Chanie in 2001. In 2021 they co-founded M54, an educational startup that shifts the learning content from text to participants' life experiences, allowing them to discover new language and voice from which increased vibrancy emerges.
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