Chabad Cal Poly is a club on campus whose motto is to be a “Home away from home” for Jewish students on campus.
Rabbi Chaim Hillel started the club in 2009, with the purpose of creating a club that services students and the local community. Chabad Cal Poly puts on shabbat dinners, booths at the university union plaza, hosts barbeques and more.
Although the club is for the community, the majority of the population consists of students.
“Today I would say we’re probably 90 to 95 percent students with a small segment of our programming for the local community,” Hillel says
Aside from hosting events, Hillel hopes the club can also serve as a place for Jewish college students to find their identity.
“You’re becoming independent and you’re learning,” he said. “For some people, maybe they didn’t grow up, let’s say, very immersed in their Jewish identity and now they want to learn about it as an independent adult and saying ‘Hey, you know, my parents raised me one way. Let me explore a little bit.’”
The shabbat dinners are the clubs main event, and are hosted on Friday evenings, and were initially every other week but grew in popularity.
“That’s our signature event,” Hillel says. “It’s a Sabbath. Sabbath starts sundown on Friday until Saturday sundown, and traditionally Friday night you have a dinner with your family. Over time the numbers just kept growing and we’re like, okay, we already have like enough of a nucleus to do this every week.”
Public health senior and president of Chabad Cal Poly Yael Shabtay tells what the club means to her.
“The goal is that it’s a place where every Jew can find themselves and can feel comfortable with whatever Judaism means to them,” Shabtay said. “But over COVID, I think we kind of lost a large group of people. So, I really want to take this position to bring back a large sect of Jewish students, like back into the community.”
The purpose of chabad is to create a space where all sects of judaism, practicing and non-practicing, can be in a community together.
“Chabad is really a place where it doesn’t matter if you’re conservative or formed or whatever, like this is a place that you could be whatever Jewish means to you,” Shabtay says.
Shabtay also emphasizes that you do not have to be actively practicing to get involved.
“I feel like there’s kind of just like a misconception, where people think that they have to be religious to get involved, and that is like not the case at all,” she said. “I would say probably 90% of our members are like, like not practicing, to be honest with you.”
She encourages those who are even slightly interested to not shy away from getting involved in the community.
“I spent the majority of my first year before Covid, like just trying to find anyone to go with me and like, it’s really scary to go there alone. But, through my own experience and through a couple other people’s, like every time you go, even if you’re alone, it’s a little less scary.
Shabbat dinners are hosted every week and boothing such as what the club calls “cookies and conversation” occurs every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the University Union Plaza.