Rabbi Slonim & Friends with the Rebbe.JPG

Rabbi Slonim and friends of Chabad meet with the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory

Chain of Tradition

The story of Chabad Lubavitch 
and how it came to Binghamton

    The story of Chabad of Binghamton did not really begin in Binghamton at all. It began almost three hundred years ago in the Carpathian Mountains in Poland with the birth of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of Chassidism. The Baal Shem Tov taught that all Jews, regardless of their station in life, are fully capable of serving G‑d and that the love of a fellow Jew must embrace a willingness to sacrifice oneself for him or her. He urged that worship is vital in the full life of every Jew; that the religious potential of Prayer is incalculable. Most of all, he stressed joy in the performance of the commandments and warmth and affection in dealing with others. These attributes became the hallmark of Chassidism. 

    One of the greatest of the early Chassidic leaders was Rabbi Shneur Zalman (1745-1812) of Liadi who came to he known as the Ray. He founded the Chabad (Chabad is an acronym of three Hebrew words: The Alter RebbeChochmah [wisdom], Binah [understanding] and Da'at [knowledge]) movement. Under his guidance, it quickly emerged as one of the strongest branches of Chassidism and most influential forces in modern Jewish history. Chabad is distinguished by its unique philosophy of Judaism which combines the best of Torah scholarship with personal piety and selfless love for the Jewish people. 
Despite persecution by the Czarist government and years of hardship, the Rav sent his disciples with the inspiring message of Chabad to Jewish communities throughout Pastern Europe. A true leader, he was fully attuned to the material needs of his fellow Jews and was widely viewed as one of the greatest Jewish personalities of his age. He died while fleeing from the carnage of the Napoleonic wars and was succeeded by his son, Dov Baer, who settled in the Russian town of Lubavitch. The name Lubavitch immediately  became coterminous with Chabad Chassidism. Appropriately, the Russian word Lubavitch means "city of brotherly love." Lubavitcher Chasidim have remained ever faithful to their roots displaying, above all, unconditional love for every Jew. 

    For five generations, following the passing of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, subsequent Lubavitcher Rebbes continued the work of their predecessors. Without regard for the dangers involved, they developed a vast network of religious, educational and social institutions. Risking arrest, deportation and even death, they established Cbedarim, shuls and mikvas across Poland, Russia and the Ukraine. Each Rebbe attacked the spiritual and physical problems of his age with vigor, fortitude and determination.

    In March 1940, after escaping certain death at the hands of the Nazis, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (1880-1950), the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, resettled in the United States where he lived for the last ten years of his life. fle let it he known that he did not come to America for his personal safety, but to continue his life's work. "America iz nisht andersh," he declared, "America is not and will not be different from Poland and Russia where   Torah communities grew and blossomed in the years before the war." In the ten short years between his arrival in the United States and his death, the Rebbe founded Yeshivol, Day Schools and youth groups across the count-y, in Israel and in North Africa. 
    In 1951, his son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, assumed the mantle of leadership. The current vitality and strength of the Chabad movement as well as the esteem in which it is held by Jews Irom every walk of life,The Rebbe is a tribute to his leadership. Under the new Rebbe's stewardship.. the network of Lubavitcher institutions and activities took on new dimensions. The outreach philosophy of Chabad, "Ufaratzto," based on the Biblical verse, "and you shall spread forth to the West and to the Last and to the North and to the South" (Genesis 28:14), vvas translated into action. 

    During five decades of inspired leadership,the Rebbe made Lubavitch the world's largest Jewish outreach

Today approximately 3,500 Chabad-Lubavitch institutions span over forty countries on six continents. These educational and social service institutions serve a variety of functions for the entire spectrum of Jews regardless of affiliation or background. Indeed, those programs geared to humanitarian endeavors reach out beyond the Jewish community, to people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. In the United States alone, more than 700 centers serve communities in every state in the Union.

    Chabad of Binghamton is one small part of that great whole. The local Chabad organization has its roots in Buffalo, NY, where in 1970, Rabbi Noson Gurary established a Chabad center. Rabbi Gurary was also named Chabad's regional director for upper and western New York State.

years of expansion and rapid growth in Buffalo, Rabbi Gurary turned his attention to the still umuet needs of other Jenvish communities in his region. Under his guidance, Chabad centers were established in Rochester in 1980 and in Syracuse in 1981. Ithaca and Binghamton followed in quick succession. In January 1985, after tine initial groundwork had been laid by Gurary, Rabbi Aaron and Rivkah Slonim arrived in Binghamton.

    All beginnings are humble and so it was with Chabad of Binghamton. Twice each week, Rabbi Aaron and Rivkah SlonimMeadows - Color .JPG set up an information table m the University Union. There they began to meet students, many of whom expressed thanks for this long overdue Jewish presence. The students came and brought their friends. They came to pick up information about Jewish events on campus, rituals and holidays. They came to obtain a mezuzah or prayer book. They came to question, explore, challenge and, very often, just to say hello. They came with their problems, frustrations and joys. Finally, there was someone to talk to; a permanent religious organization for Jews at SUNY­ Binghamton. 

    From its inception, Chabad of Binghamton serviced all Jews, regardless of their affiliation or lack thereof. Chabad helps those who want to be helped to find meaning and relevance in Judaism. Chabad focuses on the common heritage we all share and seeks to kindle a feeling of pride and joy in it. At no time is this more apparent than at Shabbat and holiday services and meals, endless hours of joy and discovery, of singing and learning, of eating and dancing, of reveling in being Jewish. 

    Very quickly, Chabad's programs became popular on campus and expanded in frequency and in scope. The small apartment on Plaza Drive which Chabad of Binghamton originally occupied was soon much too small to house its growing operation. In October 1986. Chabad moved to a new location at 1004 Murray Hill Road. First home - Color.JPGDespite it being a 20-minute walk from campus, more and more students braved the often frigid weather to experience Shabbat, the holidays and various programs. Increasingly, students began to view Chabad House as their home away from home.

    On campus, Chabad established itself as a well-known, broadly respected entity. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, holiday meals in the huge sukkah, elaborate Simchat Torah, Chanukah and Purim celebrations all became mainstays of Jewish life at SUNY. Chabad sponsored lectures, workshops, falafel nights, classes and concerts continued to draw larger and larger crowds. More and more, students came to Chabad for counseling with all kinds of problems, personal and spiritual. More broadly, the Chai Times and other Chabad publications brought Jewish news and information to the entire campus community.

    At the same time, the services Chabad provided to the general Jewish community expanded to include a full aray of educational and inspirational events such as community wide Chanukah and Purim celebrations and Passover S e d e r s, innovative children's programming like the Model Matza and Shofar factories, quality adult education offerings, first rate lecturers, the annual Salute to Jewish Womanhood, the Super-Phone and a well appointed library and research center. Chabad provides holiday programming for residents in area nursing homes as well as regular visitations to hospital patients. Most importantly, Chabad is an address to which any Jew in our community can turn for pastoral    support, religious instruction and guidance, crisis intervention or just a listening ear.

    To facilitate its continued growth and development, Chabad needed a larger, permanent location. close to campus. For two years, Chahad's board and directors searched for a facility and worked to raise the funds that could make their dream a reality. In July 1988, negotiations began for the purchase of a property at 420 Murray Hill Road. Chabad closed on the property in October of that year. Extensive renovations and the construction of an additional wing followed. On September 12, 1989 the new Chabad Ilouse was dedicated in a wonderful evening of celebration.

    No one could foresee the rapid surge and swell of movement that was to follow Chabad's relocation. During the next few semesters, increasingly larger groups of students began to make their way to Chabad House to share in the warmth and joy they heard could be found there. And as the crowds grew, so did the popularity of Friday nights and holidays at Chabad. Additional chairs and tables were purchased, larger and larger quantities of food were prepared, less and less breathing space remained. By 1991 Chabad House had clearly become a victim of its own success. Its facilities could no longer accommodate the number of students who counted on its services. Who would take care of the young men and women who couldn't get in through the door or those who were turned off by the crush?

    In the spring of 1992, the Chabad board made a monumental decision. Reason counseled that the Chabad House was hardly in a positionTable - Color.JPG to build, given its considerable deficit and ongoing financial difficulties. Reason clamored for more time to study the situation and amass adequate funding to ensure the future solvency of the organization. But the voice of idealism that characterizes Chahad was heard above the din compelling the board members to respond to the need of our youth. With the ancient words of Hillel, "If I am only for myself what am I?" and "If not now when?" resonating in their minds, the board voted yes to expansion. Phil and Abe Pinker, president and vice president of the board, and supporting pillars of Chabad from its inception, undertook the daunting task of spearheading the building campaign. One Friday night, Phil Piaker brought Barry Newman, the well-known Vestal land developer, to see the Chabad House in action. There and then, deeply touched by what he saw on this first visit, he pledged to help turn the dream, the inspired vision what many felt was a wild plan into a reality.

    Plans were drawn up, permits were sought, materials were ordered immediately, for everyone recognized that time was of the essence. The expanded student center would have to be open in time for the new  academic year. It was integral to welcome the incoming first year students into a comfortable environment while they were still new and seeking their niche on campus.The ground breaking was held in conjunction with the annual Farewell Shabbaton, on Friday, May 7, 1993. As the summer progressed, the sounds and sights of construction gave way to the emerging structure of the new student center. On Friday, August 27, hundreds of students filled the new great room of the Chabad House to welcome and celebrate Shabbat. In less than three months Barry Newman had performed the unthinkable, the unbelievable, a miracle. 

    Shortly after the opening of the new building, the crowd, once again, swelled filling the building to capacity. The edifice that has seemed so large was soon transformed into a warm and cozy place. Simultaneously, Chabad House added new staff to help provide an around the clock accessible presence to students.

    In 2000, once again responding to a space crunch of crisis proportion, and once again going out on a financial limb, Chabad House expanded Friday Night - Color.JPGunder the generous and able leadership of Mr. Barry Newman. This latest addition added considerable space to the great room, a beautifully appointed student lounge and game room, hospitality rooms and other ancillary areas. This space too is currently filled to capacity and Chabad's eye is cast, once again, towards expansion.

    With each new year, Chabad introduces an expanded and more varied menu of programs and services including a daily minyan, Seudah Shlishii and Havdallah, Beit Midrash, a twice weekly Kosher Pizza Shop, Cafe nights, various social events, social service programs such as foots drives for CHOW and blood drives for the Red Cross, internship opportunities, the Mitzvah corps/hospital visitation program, men's club bagel brunches and so much more. In 200I, under the leadership of Rabbi Yitzi and Dina Creeger,
Chabad begun offering a satellite service and Chabad dinner on the West Side of Binghamton for students living off campus.

    During these tumultuous times, following 9/11 and through the current intifada,Chabad has offered support and counsel through organized prayer vigils, successful fund raising efforts for victims of 9/11 and terrorism in Israel, and educational programs. Despite the current unrest Chabad is proud to have brought record numbers of students to Israel through birthright, affording them a life transforming opportunity.

    Chabad's programming in the community has also deepened and broadened in scope harnessing creative ideas to bring new meaning to age-old themes.

    Inaugurated in 1996, the Pauline Piaker Memorial Lecture series has allowed Chabad to bring some of the most important contemporary Jewish voices to our midst and has successively attracted larger crowds each year. The Women's League continues to bring our community's women together in cutting edge and heart warming programs as well as spreading Purim cheer with the Shaloch Manot project and uniting our community women through the Power of Prayer circle. In 2003, based on its previous success with adult education offerings, Chabad of Binghamton won affiliation with the prestigious Jewish Learning Institute and curently offers three semesters of Jewish learning annually.

    Also in 2003, Chabad House garnered the top awards at the campus excelsior award ceremony which recognizes the best of Binghamton University's student programming. Chabads campus wideNew Chabad - Color.JPG Mitzvah Marathon commemorating 9/11 was deemed the Outstanding Special Event of the year, and the annual Purim Carnival which has grown over the years into one of the largest events to take place on campus was recognized as the outstanding Program of the Spring Semester and won an award for promotion of Inter-Cultural Understanding. To celebrate Chanukah 2003, Chabad launched the You Can Light Up A Life campaign in which over two tons of canned food were collected for our area's impoverished. A first of its kind Menorah, fourteen feet high, was built entirely of these cans and lit in a moving and spirited ceremony on campus. This campaign won an Excelsior award for social service.

    In 2004, the Shabbat 1000 program conceived by Chabad of Binghamton and now replicated on campuses around the counry, broke all records with over 1100 students crowding the campus West Gym for an unforgettable Shabbat dinner.

    Grandiose programs aside, the focus of Chabad remains squarely on the individual; on enriching the life of one person at a time. Together, these individuals Form a deluge of Jewish excitement, passion and commitment that Fills the modern, spacious Chabad House Jewish Student Center which is the base for Chabad's unceasing and multifaceted activities. Chabad is the nerve center of Jewish life on campus providing everything from gala holiday celebrations to private counseling and crisis intervention, from huge Friday night meals to private tutorials, from Yom Kippur services to women's cabaret and men's karaoke, from a smorgasbord of classes to social events and social action projects.Many of these programs are spearheaded by student leaders and committees. Over the years, these same students, now alumni, have used their Chabad experiences and inspiration and have taken leadership positions in their own communities.

    Chabad House at Binghamton University has been recognized as one of the most effective Jewish campus organizations in the country; its award winning roster of programming and services is eclectic, inclusive and uniquely original After two decades of service, there are thousands of alumni who have been enriched through its efforts. Chabad can point with pride to what has been achieved, but its vision is directed toward the future. There is still much work that must be clone, so much more, until every Jew grabs hold and becomes a link in the Jewish people's eternal chain of tradition.