1,200 Students Celebrate Jewish Unity at ‘Pegisha’

This year’s Pegisha took it up a notch, as the sounds and sights of 1,200 Jewish students from 136 campuses around the world filled the neighborhood for an unforgettable Shabbos.

Once a year, Crown Heights just feels different. The enthusiasm, the joy, the pride. It’s palpable. It’s in the air. 

It’s Pegisha.

This year’s Pegisha took it up a notch, as the sounds and sights of almost 1,200 Jewish students from 136 campuses around the world filled the neighborhood for an unforgettable Shabbos at the Chabad on Campus International Pegisha.

At this year’s Pegisha, the fear and anxiety prevalent at many campuses due to the volatile atmosphere present at institutions around the world was replaced with a sense of strength and unity as the students celebrated their shared Jewish identity with unrivaled energy and unmistakable pride. 

“During these trying times, the unity and pride displayed by Jewish students around the world have been a beacon of light,” said Rabbi Yossy Gordon, CEO of Chabad on Campus International. “At Pegisha, we saw students express their unbreakable unity, pride, and joy. It is truly remarkable and uplifting to see that our future leaders are so energized by their Jewish identity and committed to sharing it with their peers.”

The weekend began with the students heading off on tours of NYC and the Crown Heights neighborhood, proudly wearing their Chabad on Campus merch items. Students strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge, marveled at the Manhattan skyline, and took in the unique New York experience, all while displaying their Jewish pride for all to see. (No fear here!) On the Crown Heights tour, students experienced the timeless aura exhibited throughout the many unique features of the neighborhood, highlighted by an awe-inspiring visit to 770 and the Rebbe’s Room.

Before candle lighting, students were treated to a live performance by Benny Friedman at the “Pegisha Kick-Off,” igniting the students with the type of pure joy that has become emblematic of the Pegisha experience. 

A uniquely inspiring and joyous candle lighting ceremony, dedicated in honor of Mrs. Charlotte Rohr OBM, ushered in the special Shabbos with spiritual light and warmth. During these trying times, where darkness and peril seem so prevalent, the ceremony served as a potent reminder to the students of our collective spiritual strength.

“Throughout Pegisha, the joy and pride of our dear students was overwhelming,” said Rabbi Avi Weinstein, COO of Chabad on Campus International. “It’s a true testament to the strength and impact of campus Shluchim and Shluchos around the world, who, together with their students, are responding to some of the darkest and most challenging circumstances with staunch and unmistakable Jewish pride.”

Friday night saw almost 1,200 Students and 200+ Shluchim, Shluchos, and chaperones branching out throughout Crown Heights as the gracious hosts of the Crown Heights community displayed their unrivaled Hachnosas Orchim. Escorting the students into the authenticity and warmth of Shabbos, these meals served as water-shed moments for many students on the true beauty of the Jewish home and way of life.

Shabbos was filled with farbrengens, hot-button discussions, soulful sessions, and educational classes, as the students were mentally and spiritually stimulated by the likes of renowned author Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, popular lecturer Rabbi Ari Shishler, and other highly touted lecturers and educators. 

Students also received essential knowledge and insight into the current situation in Eretz Yisroel and on campus, hearing from Jewish advocate and activist Dr. Rachel Fish, as well as Rabbi Berel Garelik, Shliach to Florida International University, who served in the IDF Golani Brigade during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. 

The energy reached its climax at Havdalah. Organizers were compelled to split the students into two separate groups for the Havdalah concert due to the shaking and quaking these students produce on the dance floor. With Benny Friedman in the ballroom and Peretz Chein in the gym, the energy was unleashed for an hour of song, dance, and pure Jewish joy.

An important highlight of Pegisha for many students is the Sunday visit to the Ohel. After an inspiring closing program with messages shared by well-known Shliach and speaker Rabbi Yossi Deren and others, the students sat down to write their panim. Then, together with their Shluchim and Shluchos, the group of 1,000+ headed out on buses to daven by the Rebbe’s Ohel, capping off the weekend event in the most meaningful manner possible.

“Pegisha has given me the gift of a forced pause, and an opportunity to dedicate 25+ hours to Judaism and be in a community with my Jewish brothers and sisters from around the world,” said Luda Isakharov, a Senior at the University of Oregon. “After coming back from Pegisha, I was able to reevaluate my priorities and center myself in my Judaism. I am so grateful for Chabad on Campus and the experience of Pegisha for teaching me how to prioritize Judaism early in my adult life before I graduate and head out into the world as an independent person.”

Click here for a video recap.

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