Both Rebecca Kearns, '19, and Clay Sutter, '19, have been attending Chabad since their first semester at Lehigh. Although Chabad is a Jewish group on campus, it is open to people of all faiths. (Courtesy of Kendall Coughlin)

Chabad welcomes students of all religions

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Lehigh Chabad hosts Shabbat dinner services every Friday at the Chabad House on Wyandotte Street, providing a place for students to gather for social, educational and spiritual events.

Although it serves as a place of worship for members of the Jewish community at Lehigh, Rabbi Zalman Greenberg and his wife, Dit, encourage all students to attend Chabad events regardless of their religion. 

“I think it’s beautiful,” Greenberg, commonly known as Rabbi “Z,” said. “We can all learn from each other. All faiths can learn from each other. All human beings can learn from each other.”

Although he does not ask students what faith they practice when walking into Shabbat services, he estimates that 10 to 20 percent of students on any given Friday night are not Jewish.

“There is a general open door policy,” Greenberg said. “Everyone is welcome to join.”

It is easy for students to follow the Shabbat service even if they are not Jewish. Students can follow alongside Greenberg as he leads services, and the transliteration in Chabad’s program allows students to read the pronunciation of Hebrew on the opposite page.

One part of the Shabbat service that all members participate in regardless of their faith is the lighting of the candles, which concludes the service. 

“We light Shabbat candles every Friday night,” Dit said. “Everyone participates in that during the service. We could always use more light in this dark world.”

Dit also holds a “Lunch and Learn” session every week where she encourages students to come and embrace an all-female environment. She said students of all faiths participate in the Lunch and Learn sessions, Challah Bakes and Chabad’s Welcome Back Barbecue.

One tradition that both Greenberg and his wife enjoy is when students at the Shabbat services go around the table and share the high point of their week. They enjoy hearing students with different faiths, backgrounds and stories.

Clay Sutter, ’19, and Rebecca Kearns, ’19, are both students who have attended Chabad’s Shabbat services, despite the fact that they do not practice Judaism. 

Sutter attended Shabbat services weekly as a first-year student.

“I started going because all of my friends went and I didn’t really know what I was getting into the first time, but after I went, Rabbi Zalman (Greenberg) and his wife were so welcoming and kind,” Sutter said. “It made me keep wanting to come back.”

Due to his busy schedule, Sutter now finds it more challenging to attend Shabbat each week, but he said he tries to go once every two weeks because he enjoys it so much. Although he is Presbyterian, he participates in all of the services, such as candle lighting and songs.

“You learn about what other people believe and your friends believe in and practice,” Sutter said. “It is a pretty cool thing.”

Like Sutter, Kearns began attending Chabad because of her Jewish friends.

“My friend, Julia Reisner, was going (during our) freshman year, and even though I’d never heard about it or knew what it entailed, I decided to give it a chance, and I am really glad that I did,” Kearns said.  

Kearns, who is Catholic, said she doesn’t feel like an outsider during the services.

“It doesn’t really feel like a religious service but more like a community event,” she said.

Kearns continues to attend Chabad with the members of her sorority who go to Shabbat services regularly. Since her chapter’s chef does not cook dinner on Fridays, she said it’s a nice alternative to get delicious homemade food while enjoying the company of friends. 

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