As her four kids play in the kitchen of the Chabad house, Dit Greenberg cooks with Lehigh students to prepare for Friday’s Shabbat dinner. Together they cook challah and other homemade kosher foods for the five-course dinner that proceeds the Shabbat service led by Dit’s husband, Rabbi Zalman Greenberg.
This family-friendly atmosphere is a common occurrence in the Chabad house, which is located on Wyandotte Street in South Bethlehem.
Sarah Longwill, ‘17, said the family aspect of Chabad is significant because it allows students to have a home away from home, which is one of the Zalman Greenberg’s goals.
“They’re accepting and overall just great people,” Longwill said. “They’re supportive and greet everyone with open arms.”
This family feeling has led to a large increase in attendance, so much so that the rabbi and his family moved to a larger house to accommodate for the number of people and for a better overall religious experience. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate its opening Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.
Together, the Greenbergs create a welcoming environment for exploration in religion. There are programs, classes and other resources available at the Chabad house.
“We are dedicated to the furtherance of Jewish education at all levels in the hope that it will inspire exploration of ones’ heritage and strengthen an overall Jewish connection,” Zalman Greenberg wrote in an email.
President of Chabad Darcy Horn, ’17, said the Chabad house has a great impact on Jewish students because it gives them a place to connect to Judaism and a place to escape from school work. She said it is grounding to have religion to connect to while studying at Lehigh.
“Whether in a religious way or not, (Zalman Greenberg) is there for anyone as a friend at college,” Horn said.
Longwill was running in a park one day when she saw the family playing. When she stopped to chat and play with the children, Dit Greenberg asked Longwill if she could babysit from time to time, which she still does today.
She said babysitting the kids, whose ages range from 3 to 9 years old, is different from babysitting other children because they do not watch television and would rather create art or play outside. She said sometimes it doesn’t even feel like she is babysitting, but instead hanging out with close friends.
The children are always surrounded by college students, and Horn said they are mature for their young ages.
Zalman Greenberg said the students love playing with his kids and become a part of the family. Not only does the family get to witness the students grow throughout their time at Lehigh, but the students get to see their kids grow too.
“I think it’s a different upbringing with students always at your house,” Horn said. “But I think it’s shaping them really well.”
Zalman Greenberg said the family looks forward to the weekly dinners because they get to reflect on the week and connect with students.
Before dinner is served, Shabbat services take place in a Miller Shul synagogue inside the Chabad house.
“Everyone prays at their own pace,” Horn said. “(Zalman Greenberg) tells a story or two that relates to our current lives and connects to Judaism.”
Horn said the way Zalman Greenberg performs the services is important because it helps students connect better to their religion.
Horn said the Chabad house is a positive environment for helping students explore Judaism, a challenge in college where students don’t have their parents to encourage them to attend services. She said Zalman Greenberg wants students who want to be involved to actually be involved in the services, dinners and programs.
“We’re really lucky to have this as a resource and get away from everything,” Horn said. “It’s not always about religious stuff but just a nice space to go to.”
As for Zalman Greenberg, he is not the only rabbi in his family. He said that as a teenager, he would visit the Chabad house at Stanford and Emory University, where his brother and sister were living. Today, he has another brother and a sister-in-law at Chabad at Muhlenberg College.
“I was able to witness firsthand their positive impact on students’ lives and how their efforts to build and foster a Jewish community were remarkably successful,” Zalman Greenberg said.
Inspired by his family, Zalman Greenberg decided to create Chabad at Lehigh in 2008 because he thought it was the college that needed it the most. He said there was a demand by parents and faculty, so they wanted to take it upon themselves to satisfy this need.
Zalman Greenberg said more than 600 students have attended high holidays this year, and with the popularity of the Chabad house rising, that number is expected to increase.
Longwill said the Chabad house is not only a place for services for these holidays, but it is a place to celebrate the holiday with other students because many cannot go back home to observe with their families. The house also includes free meals for the dietary restrictions of the holidays.
Zalman Greenberg said, above all, Chabad exists to fulfill the spiritual and social needs of students.
“Chabad affects the broader Lehigh community by inspiring the students to become more aware, civic-minded individuals and community leaders,” he said.