October 7th 2023. ‘The Simchat Torah War’.
In the heart of Harrisonburg, VA, following a beautiful Shabbat dinner for JMU Jewish students at the Chabad House the night before, the Saturday morning of October 7th began with a sense of hope and celebration. As the sun illuminated the festivities of Shemini Atzeres, Arman, a JMU Jewish student, entered the Chabad House with a piercing and defeated voice, sharing the heart-wrenching news. "It is really bad, the worst in 20 years. Hamas terrorists have attacked the Jewish community in Israel. It is horrible, it's really bad."
As the news of the harrowing events in Israel weighed heavily on our hearts, our anxiety grew with every passing minute. We found ourselves asking, "What can we do? What should we do?" We were acutely aware of the Mitzvah of Shemini Atzeres and Simchat Torah, which called for joy and dancing with the Torah. However, in the face of such distressing news and uncertainty, we grappled with how to reconcile our festivities with the grim reality.
But we decided to hold on tightly to that Mitzvah of joy and dancing, not as an act of disregard or denial of the tragic news, but as a means of actively responding to the situation. It was the most readily available tool and channel we had to make a positive impact, to perform a Mitzvah, and to bring light and goodness to a situation that so desperately needed it. So, that night, when the rest of the Jewish students gathered to celebrate Simchat Torah, we forged a contagious atmosphere of doing just that. We danced and danced, and then took our joy to campus, dancing with the Torahs on the Quad, and continuing the celebration into the next day.
Amidst darkness and despair, we let the light of Judaism and unity shine brighter, unleashing an energy of resilience, hope, and solidarity with our global Jewish community.
Sunday night, as we returned to our phones, we were met with the grim reality of barbaric atrocities in Israel. The pressing question weighed on our hearts: "What can we do now?" Monetary donations
were essential, yet we knew we needed to do more. We understood this was not just a physical war but a spiritual battle against darkness—a battle the Jewish people have faced throughout history.
In the face of darkness, we recognized the need to add light. Darkness is merely the absence of light; just as anti-Judaism can only be combated with Judaism. So, we decided to increase and encourage doing more Mitzvot, these unique acts of goodness that belong to our people.
Without hesitation, we organized an event with JMU’s help, asking, "What Can You Do to Help with the War in Israel?" In the event, Nomi in her presentation speech, followed by Arman’s words, encouraged our community to not only send physical aid but, more importantly, to embrace more Mitzvot and with greater enthusiasm. Hence, we re-launched the Mezuzah Bank, enabling students to acquire mezuzahs at a small commitment fee, covering the rest by our dear donors (we are still looking for more generous sponsors). We, also, established a sub-website with recommendations for Mitzvot and verified charities to support Israel, jmjews.org/youcanhelp.
Students from Hillel, AEPi, and Chabad united to organize a student-led vigil in honor of the victims. During their speeches, some students once again emphasized the importance of performing Mitzvot, highlighting the powerful nature of these unique Jewish acts as a key element to win this war against evil.
Our mission: to shower our brethren in Israel with the power of Mitzvot, paving the way for a successful and safe victory over evil, in both the physical and the spiritual.
Join us in this journey of light against darkness and let’s increase in Mitzvot together!
Am Yisroel Chai!
Calling Evil by its Name. The JMU Public Statement.
JMU consistently demonstrates robust support and inclusivity for its Jewish students. Each year, Chabad erects a 12-foot Menorah on Warners Plaza Circle at the heart of the campus, symbolizing its commitment to celebrating Jewish traditions. The Chabad Sukkah on campus ensures that students who can't access the Chabad House Sukkah can still fulfill the Mitzvah right on campus.
JMU's commitment to Jewish life goes beyond symbols. Alongside our weekly Shabbat Dinners at the Chabad House, we annually host a gala Shabbat dinner for 100 to 150 JMU Jewish students, often graced by the presence of President Alger and VP Dr. Miller.
As the Israel situation unfolded, Rabbi Mordy received emails from top JMU officials, expressing support and asking, "How can we help?" Rabbi Mordy
emphasized the importance of JMU's public condemnation of Hamas' atrocities, a message vital for both Jewish students and their parents.
Thankfully, JMU, in its unwavering support and moral stance against evil, released a statement later that week.
You can find the statement at: jmu.edu/news/2023/09/11-israel-statement.shtml
Many of you, as parents, expressed concern to us about JMU's initial lack of a statement, highlighting its significance in assessing campus safety for your child. They listened and delivered. We encourage you to express your appreciation to JMU for their statement. We believe It's important for JMU to hear your positive feedback, also when they get it right!
Safety & Security, at the Chabad House & On Campus.
As Israel's defense efforts intensify in the war against Hamas, aiming to secure the safety of Jews in Israel, concerns have arisen about potential targeting of Jewish communities, particularly on college campuses. This targeting, both social and physical, is a grave issue we are fully aware of.
To address these concerns, we have been diligently reinforcing our strong connections with local law enforcement and security professionals, including HPD, JMUPD, SWAT, State Police, and private experts. Additionally, Chabad Headquarters provides us access to national and international security and intelligence partners.
Upon learning about the situation, we promptly engaged in direct communication with HPD Deputy Chief and JMU Chief to discuss the current climate and its potential impact on our Jewish students, communities, and Chabad House. Recognizing the need for heightened security, especially for the first Shabbat dinner after the attacks began, we took several measures. These included having a JMU Police Officer present throughout the dinner, implementing an RSVP system for access, and limiting entry times. Looking ahead, as the situation stands now, we will continue to have security and or Police presence at all Shabbat dinners for the remainder of the semester, including the public 12ft Menorah lighting on campus this upcoming Chanukah.
Furthermore, HPD and JMUPD increased patrols around the Chabad House. We are also coordinating with State Police to further ensure the security of our Jewish students, community, and the Chabad House.
Emotionally and socially, we remain dedicated to providing support. Both Nomi and Rabbi Mordy are available around the clock to listen, converse, and address students' needs. We have also established communication with licensed professionals who
can offer expert advice or services directly, as well as utilizing the professional support systems offered by JMU.
JMU's environment pertaining Jew-hatred remains mostly calm and peaceful. Rabbi Mordy's concern is that this tranquility should not be the "calm before the storm". His goal is to maintain this peace and prevent any potential upheaval. To achieve this, he continues to meet with JMU's senior administration, with whom he shares a close and warm relationship. In his recent meeting with President Alger and Chief of Staff Dr. Kirkpatrick, one of the key topics was how to keep JMU calm and, most importantly, safe for Jewish students. The meeting was extensive but fruitful. President Alger and Dr. Kirkpatrick reassured Rabbi Mordy of their unwavering care and support in preventing and combatting Jew hatred. They also devised several practical ideas on what concrete actions can be taken, which will be rapidly developed and some even implemented in the days to come. Please stay tuned for updates.
Looking ahead, we plan to conduct another security assessment of the Chabad House with the assistance of security professionals. We will also receive additional training to enhance our knowledge and preparedness for emergency situations, G-d forbid.
While local law enforcement has been exceptional in their commitment to our security, the need for private security presence and training is crucial. Additionally, we plan to upgrade cameras, lights, doors, locks, and windows, which incurs major costs.
To contribute to our security & safety fund please go to jmjews.org/supportsecurity.
May G-d, the guardian of the Jewish people and the world, bestow upon us abundant blessings of joy, safety, and health.
Our Message to the Students. And to You.
During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, a coalition of Arab countries, led by Egypt and Syria, launched a coordinated attack on Israel, taking the Jewish people by surprise. Top IDF officials initiated communications with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Brooklyn, New York, seeking advice and guidance. Their own accounts depict the Rebbe as having sounded like a military expert.
The Rebbe's response was unwavering: "Finish the job!" Despite Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's concerns about the world's opinion, the Rebbe emphasized that such worries were trivial compared to the potential future consequences for the Jewish people. He stressed that there is nothing more eminent than protecting life, and any other political considerations should serve that primary priority, and not vice versa. The Rebbe added that when it comes to defending lives, one cannot leave the job half-done with the premise that not pushing too hard will bring peace and tranquility. This pattern had repeated itself in previous wars in 1956, 1967, and now again in 1973. In every war, lives were lost, and there was still no peace. Thus, it was crucial to finish the job.
Upon further hesitation from top Israeli officials due to political and diplomatic concerns, the Rebbe's message remained strong and resolute: "It's a big mistake, it's a big mistake," "Finish the job!"
After the war officially ended, in conversations with Air Force General Ran Ronen-Pekker and decorated war hero Sergeant Moshe Levy, the Rebbe expressed that "the war had poor outcomes." In response, they explained, "Rebbe, look how close we got to their capitals. Our goal was never to occupy their capitals, but rather to show them we could, to demonstrate our
strength." The Rebbe, however, pointed out that while they did have the strength, keeping it hidden defeated its own purpose. The Rebbe emphasized that every war should end with an absolute victory and that it was essential to prevent such situations from recurring.
Fast forward to our current position on the other side of the Atlantic in 2023. This war has two fronts: the physical battle, valiantly fought by the IDF, and the information war, combating deliberate misinformation aimed at tarnishing Israel's right to self-defense and self-preservation.
In essence, this is a spiritual war. In the face of darkness and deceit, our most potent weapon is our observance of Mitzvot, unique to the Jewish people. These Mitzvot infuse the entire world with light and goodness. The Rebbe recommends the following specific Mitzvot during times of war: Tefillin (for men), Shabbat candles (for women), Kosher Mezuzahs, Torah study, Tefillah (Prayer), and Tzedakah (Jewish charity).
Let us unite in this battle of resilience and strength by increasing our observance of Mitzvot. Together, we will prevail in this war against evil and dispel darkness by shining the powerful light of Mitzvot.
Chazak V'Ematz! (Be strong and resolute!)
Support the Fight for Judaism. Your Vital Lifeline.
In the wake of the recent terrorist atrocities by Hamas on October 7 against the Jewish people, as Israel defends itself and our people, the wave of potential repercussions and threats to Jewish communities worldwide, especially on college campuses, intensifies with each passing minute as the conflict escalates. Our mission at James Madison University is now more crucial than ever. JMU's Jewish students face unparalleled challenges, and the need to ensure their emotional, social, and physical safety calls for your urgent financial support!
In these times of crisis, our Chabad House not only remains fully open to them but its roll as a beacon of hope and safe space for Jewish students is more pressing than ever before. It's here that they find not only physical and emotional security but also the strength and clarity to nurture their Jewish identity and heritage, a vital oasis of light amidst the darkest times.
As we together support Israel's defense efforts, JMU Jewish students need you too! The Chabad House at JMU is entirely financially independent, relying solely on the generosity of individuals and donors like you. Our budget of $187,690 is entirely funded by the care and support of parents, alumni, and friends.
We are 100% responsible for our own funding.
Every event, every meal, every salary, every program, and every expense, from the largest to the smallest—everything we provide—is made possible by your generosity.
Your donations don't just make a difference; they are the difference. They fuel the flame of Jewish life at JMU, where every dollar counts, and every penny is put to work.
In these times of heightened social isolation, and uncertainty, our students are facing unprecedented challenges, including anxiety and fear, putting their Jewish pride and identity at high risk.
Your contribution fortifies their Judaism and empowers them to embrace their heritage
The ultimate way to combat Jew-hatred is with Judaism.
Especially now, your donation is not just a gift; it's a lifeline. Your generosity are the bedrock of our Chabad House, and your support is the embodiment of Jewish unity.
Thank you for caring and for standing for Jewish life at JMU, so far away from anything else Jewish!
To donate and support Jewish continuity and perseverance, please go to jmjews.org/lifeline.
Recap & Friendly Calls to Action.
In summary, there is a lot you can do to be an active bringer of light in the war against darkness, both abroad in Israel and right here in the US, ensuring the well-being of Jewish students on campus, particularly at JMU.
Here is a recap of the friendly call to action suggestions from these articles:
Show your appreciation to JMU for addressing the issue and making the campus safer by issuing a statement.
Support the needed safety and security upgrades at the Chabad House by making a donation at jmjews.org/supportsecurity.
If you agree our 24/7 work for Jewish life and Jewish students at JMU is more crucial and pressing than ever before, please ensure our work continues by donating to our end-of-year campaign at jmjews.org/lifeline.
Let's unite in shaping a thriving and radiant Jewish reality, today and for the immediate tomorrows.