New Chabad of Washington Heights Runs First Shabbat Programming
The new Chabad of the Heights held its first Shabbat programming after Sukkot, hosting both a Friday night meal at the Chabad House near Wilf Campus and a shabbaton in Crown Heights the following week.
The events follow the grand opening of the Washington Heights East Chabad House in early September.
About sixty students — a maxed-out crowd for the physical location and more than student leaders expected — attended kabbalas Shabbos and dinner at the new building, located at 390 Audubon Ave. between 185th and 186th streets, on October 20. “You could feel the spirit of Shabbos in the air,” Ariel Lotman (YC ‘26), co-president of the Chabad club, told The Commentator. “It was a very incredible inaugural Shabbos dinner.”
A week later, Chabad of the Heights took fifty students on a Shabbaton to Crown Heights, the headquarters of worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch. Students were hosted by local families and ate Friday night dinner with their hosts. On Shabbat day, the students were based in Oholei Torah, a Chabad yeshiva, where they davened and ate their meals together. Aiden Feinberg (YC ‘25) described, “It was great to see YU students from all programs coming together during one Shabbos to learn and experience Chabad.”
Although the fall semester marks the first with a permanent Chabad House and shliach at YU, the Chabad@YU club has existed in the past as a student-led effort. Ariel Monsano (SSSB ‘25), the Wilf Campus Co-President of the club, said that the club has held events on significant days on the Chabad calendar and public megillah readings on Purim. The club has also independently held annual Crown Heights Shabbatons.
Aside from the physical locale, the new Chabad presence on campus also includes shlichim Rabbi Levi and Leah Sputz. Rabbi Sputz, who grew up in Crown Heights and received his education and semicha from Chabad yeshivos, has served as the temporary rabbi for various communities, including in Brazil, Poland, Germany and recently at Columbia Medical School.
"This past year we moved on Shlichus to Washington Heights,” he said. “It is an honor and privilege for me to be living in a place that facilitates so much Torah with tremendous talmidei chachomim and roshei yeshivas where there is so much I can personally grow as well.”
Monsano, whose parents both became involved in Chabad on their respective college campuses, welcomed the beginning of formal Chabad programming at YU. He expressed hope that Chabad could “reach students that YU hasn’t been able to reach” and “enhance” Shabbos on campus, a time when there “isn’t so much going on” for some students. He anticipates that the new Chabad House could be “really a home away from YU for the students who live on campus.”
Eitan Leitner (YC ‘26), who has informally helped setting up for Chabad events, had high praise for Rabbi Sputz. “Rav Sputz is a big talmid chochom and full of ahavas Yisroel,” he told The Commentator. “He has a real passion and talent for inspiring those around him.”
Leitner also thought that a “large number of YU students” can benefit from increased exposure to Chabad. Monsano, the club president, and Leitner each estimated there to be only about 10-20 Lubavitchers on campus; the vast majority of those engaged with Chabad come from other backgrounds.
Nevertheless, Rabbi Sputz did not think it would be too difficult to familiarize YU students with Chabad. He predicted, “‘Hi, I'm Levi, a local Chabad Rabbi,’ will speak for itself.” Chabad of the Heights plans to start weekly minyanim, in addition to farbrengens, Torah classes, Purim and Chanukah parties, and more. “The students and locals are … very much looking forward to what’s to come,” Rabbi Sputz said.
Photo Caption: The Washington Heights Chabad House
Photo Credit: Sruli Friedman / The Commentator