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Nadav and Avihu Strange Fire


student.jpgIn this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, we are introduced to Kashrut laws, or what defines a Kosher animal. Split hooves, chewing cud, fins and scales, the whole nine yards. And there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this subject matter, none of which I will discuss today.

Instead, I will focus on an episode with Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. Nadav and Avihu were both priests in the Tabernacle, a makeshift travelling temple in the desert. They are remembered in the Torah for offering an improper sacrifice to G-d and their actions have made them scrutinized by scholars for decades. Wrongfully so, I think.

וַיַּקְרִ֜יבוּ לִפְנֵ֤י ה' אֵ֣שׁ זָרָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹ֦א צִוָּ֖ה אֹתָֽם: and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.

וַתֵּ֥צֵא אֵ֛שׁ מִלִּפְנֵ֥י ה' וַתֹּ֣אכַל אוֹתָ֑ם וַיָּמֻ֖תוּ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה: And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Nadav and Avihu were responsible for performing basic religious functions, including offering traditional sacrifices. However, in this instance, they brought forth a “strange fire” and were punished accordingly.

Rather than to write off these two characters as “drunk fools,” as they’re commonly interpreted to be, I’m here to defend them. They did not offer this “strange fire” out of malice; they offered it out of service.

Throughout college, we make irrational decisions to garner approval from others. We partake in toxic gossip about our friends to show we’re “in the know”, we agonize over Instagram captions to generate satisfaction from distant friends and we participate in destructive habits to “fit in” with the cool crowd. All the while, we justify our “strange” actions by their intended results: approval from our peers.

Commentaries are quick to assert a few possible scenarios for why Nadav and Avihu were punished for offering a “strange fire” to G-d: they were drunk, they improperly prepared the sacrifice, they lacked authorization and they entered forbidden areas. These potential scenarios seek to rationalize the punishment Nadav and Avihu endured. But truth be told, none of us can know what truly warranted this punishment. This punishment was delivered from G-d, by G-d because of a misstep to G-d. There are two types of crimes: those between one person and another and those between a person and G-d. Punishments for crimes of the former include penalties, fines and jail time. Punishments of the latter include, well, death by Divine fire. Just as we can’t understand the punishment, we can’t understand the reasoning either.

Perhaps Nadav and Avihu offered this sacrifice to seek approval from G-d. After all, their priest status committed them to lifelong service to G-d. Perhaps, this sacrifice was an attempt to show G-d their commitment to the Tabernacle, the service and the Jewish people. Perhaps they acted with pure intentions, but they just executed it very poorly. And since they did it on such a grand stage, the consequences were great. But we don’t have as much at stake today.

People are often judged by their actions, not their intentions. Of course, people should be held accountable for their actions, but to judge someone’s intentions and character solely by the result of their actions is naïve. People are multifaceted, dynamic creatures who make mistakes. In our everyday lives, our peers make mistakes and we are quick to judge them for them.

I’d like to offer an alternative method. Next time your friend, family, roommate, classmate and even professor make a mistake, take a step back, consider the intentions, and go from there. That will lead to a greater level of understanding between you and your peers and more productive decision-making moving forward.Life is full of mistakes, and we are bound to make them. So go out, make mistakes, learn from them, but don’t forget to allow others to learn from them too. Shabbat Shalom.

To learn more about Nadav and Avihu click here. 

Pink Shabbat Speech

Kelsey FeinbergPlease look around the room and see the people around you. Every single person here has probably been affected by cancer in one way or another. I am proud to be a part of Pink Shabbat, to take this time tonight to recognize the many lives effected by this disease, especially ones as prominent as the Breast Cancer. For those who do not know, I was diagnosed with cancer in high school. I underwent several chemotherapy treatments, procedures, and overall endured what one would when living a life with cancer. There are many things you lose from this process. I lost my physical strength, I lost my hair and eyelashes, I lost the opportunities to continue to live my life I had been living, and the overall feeling of health. However, I did not just lose, but I also gained. I gained more than I could ever have imagined. I gained wisdom about my family, my friends, even strangers, and myself. My family and friends have provided a support system stronger than anything I have ever seen. I have also seen that I have a new profound connection new people I meet every day. As time has gone on, not only have I regained a lot of what I lost, but I also continue to receive more. Even with a the new community I am in now, I have been overwhelmed with the love from the people in my life. Thank you to everyone here for supporting Pink Shabbat, supporting those battling breast cancer, and supporting me. 

Pink Shabbat Speech

Jodi Joskowitz and Corey JoskowitzEarlier today after I was done practicing my original speech, my mother looked at me and said “you may be smarter than me, but I’m more experienced”. That’s what I wanted to talk about today. Experience.

My sophomore year of high school, I was a subpar student academically and behaviorally. I was failing to live up to my expectations and those of my parents

I was put up to be expelled twice my sophomore year. I was scared and it was written on my face. I showed weakness and people treaded me differently because of it. My parents were more scared than I, but I was the one crying.

I made it through in one piece, without getting expelled, but I assumed that I had had the experience that made me a man. I was wrong.

Junior year started off great. Grades were impeccable (not to brag or anything) and I was called a model student by multiple teachers other than my gym teacher.

Halfway through the year that all changed.

When I got home on the day before my first official college tour, I immediately knew something was wrong. Mom was home early. That’s how I knew it was cancer. After she confirmed my suspicions, I went up to her, hugged her, and said “We will get through this”

This experience, although painful, has made my family and myself stronger. Being the family member of someone with cancer is hard. But it also makes you stronger in ways you wouldn’t think possible. Through the entire process from news break to officially cured, I never cried. Not to my mom. my dad. And definitely not to my older sister. It wasn’t about being prideful, it was about not showing weakness. I knew showing weakness was not something that would help, so I didn’t do it. I kept my head high and was the rock my mother, and my family needed me to be.

This may not be the ten pages my mom wrote, but I hope it send a clear message. Every experience in life is that. An experience. Use it to your advantage to become the best you you can be. I will tell you that my mother is stronger than I am. But because of her, we both got stronger together

I’m not saying this was a pleasant or easy experience by any means. But the fight we put up made it with it.

UT Pink Ribbon Speech

Corey Joskowitz and Jodi Joskowitz

Good Shabbos. Thank you Rabbi and Ariela for inviting me to share my story tonight. I am Jodi Joskowitz, Corey's mother. I'm not only a mom, I am a senior salesperson at a European investment bank. At the time of this story I was the only woman on the trading floor with 40 men. I was not overweight; I did a lot of yoga, took vitamins and slept 8 hours a night. I may have drank a little too much but I'm only human.

For several months I was feeling "something" on my chest wall. It was a habit to rub the spot when I was stressed at work. That was quite often. It was high up, not far from my collar bone. I thought nothing of it. I assumed it was a fatty deposit like old bald men get on their heads. On Friday the 6th of February I went to the doctor at the insistence of my husband Scot. He literally dragged me there. I only agreed to go because I was off of work that day - we had our first meeting with Corey's college counselor.

The doctor insisted I go for another mammogram (I had just had one on November) which led to an ultrasound and a biopsy. I truly thought nothing of it. The lump was high on the chest wall. Fast forward to Friday the 13th. We were heading out that night to Indiana University to visit my daughter Dylan who was a senior and Corey was taking his first college tour. I was at a lunch with colleagues when my gynecologist called with my results. Instead of meeting my husband and son at the airport I went home to devise a game plan. When Corey came home from school that day and saw me standing in the kitchen he was confused at first. Then he said "you have cancer".

We decided to go to Indiana and tell Dylan in person. Our flight was delayed and we were not seeing her until her alarm went off at 9am on Saturday. After a sleepless night, Scot and I parked outside her apartment at 7:30 and waited. How were we going to tell our daughter? It was her senior year of college and her mom had cancer.

If you can't imagine what that was like, I can tell you it was bad. Really bad. Hysterical is an understatement. The three of us cried for a long time and then went to get Corey so we could weep together as a family.

We refer to that weekend as the worst weekend of our lives. The only time I didn't cry was during our tour of IU. It was 17 degrees in Bloomington, Indiana and my eyeballs were frozen. Corey did not let go of my hand the entire walk. I assume the other students thought we were pretty weird or maybe he was homeschooled and nervous. There were a lot of tears and tremendous fear that weekend because we did not know what my future held. There were two positives. We saw an amazing basketball game where IU scored the most 3 point shots ever in a Big 10 basketball game. I did cry through it. And when we had to say our goodbyes, Dylan was on the sofa with her two best friends, her Aephi sisters, who swore they would take care of her. Dylan wasn't alone.

I went home to a lot of appointments and waiting for test results to come up with a treatment plan. Corey was my rock during this trying time. He never left my side. He was my protector. Corey spent 3 years wearing pink socks at his October football games. His senior year he would be wearing them for his mother. It was surreal. On the day of my surgery Corey didn't want to kiss me goodbye. He never saw me before school and he wanted to keep with the routine. He was superstitious. I insisted and received the biggest hug ever. As he walked out of the house I saw he was wearing the pink football socks under his khakis.

Fast forward to a lumpectomy and then 7 weeks of Monday through Friday radiation. I left for work at 6:15 each morning as a successful Wall Street salesperson and took a 1:30 bus home to head to the cancer center at the hospital for treatment. I was leading two lives.

The afternoon bus driver was excited to have a passenger who wasn't a construction worker on his bus. I smiled and gave him a big hello every day and then cried in my seat for the ride home. I saw the same women at treatment every day. I was the youngest one there. Some were much sicker than me.

During a weekly visit with my radiation oncologist I was crying. I felt ashamed. I was lucky. I didn't lose a breast. I didn't need chemotherapy and I wouldn't be losing my hair. Why was I feeling sorry for myself? The doctor said "you're not lucky Jodi. You're a 48 year old woman with breast cancer. Some woman may have it worse but most women don't have it at all."

Doctors and nurses encouraged me to get counseling. Living a dual life was hard and fighting cancer came with many struggles. Most women were taking time off during treatment. I did not. I was the only woman on my team at the bank and I’m a fighter. Nobody could understand how I did it. My secret.... I just did it. Living life is easier than thinking about living life. You do what you have to do when you don't have a choice.

A month after treatment ended, Scot and I were at a U2 concert when I started to cry. I cried the entire show. It hit me. I was damaged and I needed help. I fought cancer like a champ but now I needed to address my other wounds. The biggest issue was my feeling of being alone. Though I was surrounded by family, friends and colleagues from diagnosis to completion of treatment, I never felt more alone. I felt so alone on that bus every day. And I was truly alone when I was on the table in the radiation room. I never felt so vulnerable.

Day after day. It was me and my body. The body that had failed me even though I did everything right. An amazing therapist helped me heal.

Life is hard. No matter how hard we try, sometimes we lose control. Sometimes we don't like our options or choices. Sometimes we have to deal with unexpected surprises. And we deal with them. You just do it.

Vincent my bus driver saw a professional woman with a big smile. Inside I was a frightened women, wife, mother and daughter. I was wearing a facade that we often have to wear. So many people knew I was sick but so many didn't. I certainly didn't look like a cancer patient. And though I did an excellent job of doing what I had to do, I didn't realize I was vulnerable. And that's when my perspective changed. I saw kindness in a different way. Life is hard and you never know what someone is struggling with. Being sensitive, warm, polite and caring make a huge difference. Random acts of kindness are a real thing.

October has a very different meaning for me now. I always supported pink causes but now the pink everywhere is my own personal reminder of my 5 month battle with breast cancer. Please use it as a reminder to be mindful of your health. Use it as a reminder to be kind. You never know who is living with personal challenges. And remember we are stronger than we know we are. Have faith in yourself but don’t be afraid to get help when you need it.

Rosh Hashanah 2nd Night

Grace GilbertIf you walk around campus and west campus you see a lot of construction. Buildings are being renovated and soon there will probably be a new Villas. I am no contractor or construction person, but when you begin to build a structure like an apartment complex or a school building, or just a house, you start from the outside structure. Only when the structure is complete do we begin to focus on the interior of the building. But in the Torah, there is a story in Exodus where G-d is instructing us to build the tabernacle and he says to start with the Torah on the inside and work on the outer framework last. The lesson is simple: when building a home, a community, a friendship, we must place the most important things in the centre and build around it - if we build everything else first, there may not be any room left for what we care most about.

This story comes from the parsha Terumah and the root of Terumah translates to “to elevate”. So, lets try as we start the New Year to take the ordinary aspects of our lives and elevate them with more purpose. Lets fill our cups with only the good stuff and remember to focus less on where you physically are sometimes and more on who you are with and what you want those around you to take form your experiences with them.

To a sweet, healthy, fun, and successful new year, shana tova.

Rosh Hashanah

Ali Wolf.pngHi everyone, my name is Ali Wolf and I’m from Miami, Florida. I am so happy and lucky to be here with all of you. The other day my sister sent me this story and I thought it would be very meaningful to share. 

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and shoves you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? "Well because someone bumped into me, of course!" Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because coffee was in the cup. If tea had been in it, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup is what will come out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which will happen), whatever is inside of you will come out. So we have to ask ourselves....what's in my cup. When life gets tough, what spills over? Joy, gratefulness, and humility? Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and actions? It’s your choice! 

Keeping that story in mind, Rosh Hashana marks the first day of the new year and is the holiday when G-d begins to judge us all the way through Yom Kippur. It is a time where we must reflect on ourselves and on our behaviors in order to become better people and ask for forgiveness. There are things that we do on this holiday to remind us of our new task, which truly make this holiday so special. For example, we dip apples and our challah in honey to ensure a sweet new year and we have a head of a fish on the table to remind us to be leaders and not followers like the tail. We also have round challahs to symbolize something with no end. We want to live lives and get blessings and make wishes that will never end. Finally, we want to distinguish our last year from the year that's about to begin by trying something new because by trying something new we are acknowledging that we are new people and plan on doing things differently.

Therefore, let's work together towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation to yourself and others, kindness, gentleness, and love on this incredibly meaningful and special holiday! Shana Tova! 

A Glimpse of JTribe Shabbat Dvar Torah Speech

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In Nitzavim, God gives the Jewish people a choice between life and death and implores them to choose life so that they may live. Obviously, physical life and death aren't what's being discussed here. He's referring to spiritual, emotional life and death. If the Jewish people choose to follow primal desires, their spirits will die. If they subvert physical wants for a higher path, they will live. We face these choices every day, and they don't solely regard following Torah law. Every time you decide to wake up early and work out before class, you choose life. Every time you hit snooze until you just barely have time to roll out of bed and make it class in your pjs, that's choosing death. In the moment, hitting that snooze button and going back to sleep feels amazing, but not doing that feels more fulfilling in the long term.


Moses tells the Jewish people he is dying and announces that Joshua will succeed him. However, a righteous person never truly dies because their good deeds create ripples and affect the world long after their soul leaves the physical world.

Dvar Torah: Ki Tavo

 Dvar Torah: Ki TavoJustin Fasman
by Justin Fasman

I feel very blessed and fortunate to be speaking in front of everyone tonight at Sammy Shabbat. But to be completely honest, my Dvar Torah is a reflection of the people I’ve surrounded myself with over the past year. So in essence, my words is a combination of learning and thinking of my Jewish identity, being a brother of Sammy, and surviving (and “thriving”) as a student at the University of Texas. Thank you Rabbi Zev and Sammy for letting me speak and
share this night with our awesome new pc and all the actives here tonight.
Last year felt like a long time; I think it was because every experience I had was a new one. College courses reached a new academic intensity that I’d yet to experience, the city I lived in was brand new, and I didn’t really have a sense of identity yet in the new journey I was beginning to embark on. Some may have felt lost in that situation, which is absolutely normal
and okay, but I took at as a learning experience.
This week’s Parshah is Ki Tavo. G-d provided the people of Israel land that represents their eternal heritage. Moses instructed those people, as they entered the land, to settle it, cultivate it, and bring the first-ripened fruits to the Holy Temple. Moses then told the people of Israel to declare their gratitude for all that G-d has done for them. He reminded the people that they are
G-d’s chosen people, and that they, in turn, have chosen G-d.
The people of Israel entered the land without knowledge of their future life. The way I interpret is that although the unknown can be frightening, they had a place that demonstrated their eternal heritage and a place to settle and cultivate the land given to them. This week’s Parshah translates to “When you Enter,” and I find that to be analogous to the way I view my life in Texas.

I entered Texas with an open-mind that all students here should, regardless of where you’re from. UT is a fruitful place, an institution to freely think, debate, learn, and grow. Entering the land that G-d had provided His people was theirs to settle and cultivate. I view UT and Chabad with the same vision. In the classroom, students will grow intellectually. At Chabad, we learn the
importance of coming together, all as individuals, but with the same identity. The two work hand-in- hand, and without Rabbi Zev and his family, that wouldn’t be possible. This place is special, so….
Most importantly, say Thank You and remember to express gratitude to the people that supported you and pushed you along the way. Without them, you would most likely not be sitting here right now—together as a community, and together as Sammy. The world given to us by G-d is ours to keep. I hope that with our education and commitment to help one another, we will stand together to protect our world, Israel, and each other.

Birthright Thoughts








Thank you Rabbi Zev, donors and everyone who helped facilitate my Birthright trip this past summer. It was an incredible experience touring with friends, peers, and especially the Israeli soldiers, who were the highlight of the trip. We connected with the soldiers from day one and quickly realized they were just like us only with an Israeli upbringing. It was hard to believe that they were our age and had already experienced so much by growing up in Israel and serving in the IDF. By the end of the trip, the soldiers were completely integrated into our group and it was hard to say goodbye. I’m excited to return to Israel in the future and having great friends to reconnect with there.









Pink Shabbat Speech


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 All throughout October we hear phrases like “Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Awareness” But why is it so important for you to support breast cancer awareness and research? The first thing I want everyone to do is to imagine this:

Imagine a beautiful 32-year old woman, with bouncy brown hair, bright blue green eyes, and a strong, fit body. This woman you are imagining was the highest ranked female black belt in the world in the Israeli self-defense system, Krav Maga. Although she was one of the toughest fighters, she was the most loving, sweet, creative, fun and, gentle person and I was lucky enough to call her my mom. At age 32, my mother Marni, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now picture this: In the months to follow, that beautiful woman with bouncy brown hair quickly transformed into a beautiful woman with no hair. Her strong, fit body was soon fragile and weak from chemo and radiation– sometimes too weak to drive down the block or even to walk into my room to tuck me into bed. Her strength that was once so blatantly visible in her physical appearance, was no longer seen; however, it began to resonate through her courage, persistence, and dedication to beat the disease that she was battling. The woman who you first imagined taught others how to defend themselves, yet she found herself at age 32 in the greatest battle of her life. Four years and two rounds of breast cancer later, my mother passed away. I was 9.

My mother living her life while she was sick was a blessing because she lived her life, not her disease. She went to every school play, every soccer game, and every dance recital she was well enough to go to. So while my childhood was not the norm, it was happy and full and I was lucky to have my mother in my life for the 9 years I did. To put it simply, losing my mother has defined me. As a 9 year old, I had no idea how much my mom’s disease would impact the rest of my life. As much as my mom shaped who I was, her absence has shaped me just as much. Losing my mother has made me strong. Losing my mother has made me independent. Losing my mother has made me dedicated to find a cure for the disease that took her life. Every year my family and I have organized the Stop Cancer Marni Fund 5k run walk. Through the walk and Krav Maga seminars, we have raised over one million dollars to fund breast cancer research at USC, UCLA, and City of Hope cancer research centers. My mom’s wish was for doctors to learn from her case to help other mothers, sisters, and daughters.

            So, this is why I fight against breast cancer, but why should you? Each year 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. 8-10% of Ashkenazi Jews carry the BRCA gene, the genetic mutation that greatly increases your risk of having breast cancer. Many of the women in this room tonight are Ashkenazi Jews. Many of your best friends, sorority sisters, myself included, are at risk for developing Breast Cancer. This fact is not meant to scare you, but to empower you. Being aware and knowing the risks of the future is a powerful concept. There are a lot of important causes in the world, but this disease disproportionately affects Jewish women. As Jews, we need to recognize this fact to protect the women in our lives. I hope tonight motivates all of you to join the fight against breast cancer, not only during the month of October, but in whatever ways you can throughout the year.

By attending Pink Shabbat you are raising awareness. By making donations or becoming involved in an organization, you are taking action. Whether you are getting involved in small or large ways, you are making a difference.

 -Brooke Levine




Pink Shabbat 2016







Breast cancer. Two words when put together bring up memories of pain, strength, and courage.

Twenty days before my 4th birthday, my biological mom, Kathy, passed away from breast cancer. Kathy was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer at the age of thirty. Only ten years older than I am today. She fought for two long hard years, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

After Kathy’s diagnosis, my dad found out that Kathy’s side of the family had a history of breast and ovarian cancer. Not only was every single female diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, but none of them had survived their fight. One of the youngest people to be diagnosed was at the age of 25. What can cause such a dominant gene to take the life of so many? The BRCA 1 mutation gene had been passed down for many generations and finally being discovered in Kathy.

         BRCA 1 mutation gene otherwise known as BRCA is the gene that leads to a higher risk in breast and ovarian cancer. Women in the general population have an 8% chance of developing breast cancer in their life. Woman who have the BRCA 1 mutation gene have a 55-65% of having cancer. So how is it that every single female on Kathy’s side had developed cancer? It must have been a really powerful gene.

         If only one of your parents has the BRCA 1 mutation gene it doesn’t mean that you will 100% have the gene. Getting the BRCA 1 mutation gene is just a 50/50 chance; just a flip of a coin can decide your fate.

         The BRCA gene was passed from my grandfather to all 3 of his children. So not only females, but also males can be carriers of the gene. However, after Kathy’s diagnosis, my aunt was able to have a double mastectomy that saved her life.

         Even though I never got to know Kathy the way I wish I had (since I was only 4) I know that she is looking over me and has provided me the skills I need to be strong, brave, and courageous; and I will always be grateful for that. 


 -Reagan Bazarsky


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It feels good to live up to our values and do what is right. But what should we do if the people around us aren't? Should we get involved and try to influence them or change them? In this week's Torah portion Noah faced this very dilemma. God informed him that he was about to bring a huge flood to destroy the world that had become very corrupted and evil. God told Noah, who was literally the only good and honest man left in the world that only he and his family would survive to start the world all over. Although Noah was sad and hoped that everyone else would change their ways and also be saved, he made the mistake of not doing enough to influence them to change. We learn from here that it’s not only important to be good on our own, but it is also important to try to influence others to do what is right and have good values.

As well all know, there is no room for evil or hate in this world - we have enough of that already. This world is turning into a scary place, and the only thing we can do individually is try to make it better. If you see someone doing something not right, then tell them. Help not only yourself become a better person, but also others. By not only changing yourself to become a better person, but by also influencing others, you can save humanity as Noah could have done. Be a virtuous person, influence others to be good people, stand up for what’s honest and right, and you can make a change.

 -Noa Barazani 



Sammy Shabbat


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Shabbat Shalom everyone;

First of all I would like to thank Rabi Zev, Ariella and all the Johnsons for having us here today so we can enjoy another wonderful Shabbat.


As a member of Texas Sammy and a member of the Executive Board at Chabad, I welcome and thank every single one of you for coming here today. As you may or may not know, this is the 6th edition of Sammy Shabbat at Chabad ever since 2012, and I am happy to say that we have been able to do this ever since my cousin Jaime and couple of Sammy alumni started this great tradition with Rabbi Zev.


For those who don’t know me, my name is Julio Fascowich and I transferred to UT about 2 and half years ago and I will be graduating this coming May. Ever since I moved here, I have always been welcome by everyone, but I would like to give a special mention to Rabbi Zev and Ariella. Both of them have spent long hours making sure that every single student that walks into the Chabad feels welcome and part of the UT family, and that’s exactly how I felt when I first came for a Shabbat.


As this could be one of the few times for me to speak in public, which is something that I am actually terrified of, I believe that is important to mention all the great memories and friendships that I am taking from here.

Ever since I joined Chabad, I have always tried to help in every possible way, by helping get a minian on a weekday, set up the house for an event with the rest of the board, or even go get groceries. I am always happy to help, and even after all this, that’s not enough to thank both of our hosts.


I know I will still see all of you around this and next semester, but I wanted to acknowledge the great work that the Johnsons do here in Austin. I can’t thank them enough and I hope that both, Chabad and the relationship between Texas Sammy & Chabad, keep growing and hopefully, I will be able to come to a Sammy Shabbat as an Alumni.


Chabad is a great organization committed to show, teach and enhance the Jewish identity of every Jew that comes to this great university, undergraduate or graduate student. As we just celebrated Rosh Hashana, I want to wish Shana Tova to all of you and once again, thank the Johnsons for all the great things they have done for us. Lejaim!!


Thank you, Shabbat Shalom and please enjoy the rest of the amazing dinner that Ariella cooked for all of us. 

Dvar Torah










First and foremost, I’d like to thank Rabbi Zev for welcoming Sammy to Chabad Shabbat Services tonight to join his wonderful family in this beautiful home. Chabad here at UT is always a great place for Jewish students to come together for holidays, events, and amazing food!  

Tomorrow marks five years since I was Bar-Mitzvahed back home in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I remember specifically at the end… Rabbi Stern shook my hand and told me “This is The Beginning.” It wasn’t until years later that his words sunk in for me.

It was when my family dropped me off this past August…when my dad shook my hand and told me “This is The Beginning.”

Because that brings me to this week’s Parshah, Bereishit. Bereishit is about Beginning. G‑d created the world in six days. On the first day He made darkness and light. On the second day He forms the heavens. On the third day He sets the boundaries of land and sea. And so on until…  G‑d ceases work on the seventh day, and sanctifies it as a day of rest.

He soon formed the human body from the dust of the earth, a man, and, soon after, a woman, named Adam and Eve respectively. G-d commanded not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But a serpent persuades Eve to violate the command and she shares the forbidden fruit with her husband. Consequently, because of their sin, it is decreed that all gain will come only through struggle and hardship.

The Beginning was difficult. But similarly to how the Beginning demonstrated in Bereishit didn’t seem to go as planned, it is reflective of how our lives may be today. I know that that day in August when my time in Austin had just only begun, it wasn’t easy. I knew a good friend of mine, but that couldn’t make up for the inevitable homesickness I’d later experience. But that’s when Chabad came into the picture. That’s when Sammy came into the picture. I was welcomed with absolute open arms by Rabbi Zev, his family, and the Jewish community here at UT. I joined an incredible brotherhood at Sigma Alpha Mu that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and it’s only been almost 2 and a half months! The support everyone here provides each other means the world to me and is something worthy of acknowledgement. Especially my parents and older brother…even from 1200 miles away, I’m confident they always have my back.

But remember… no one said the beginning was supposed to be easy. The beginning is something new, it’s foreign, it may just be out of your comfort zone. But with the right mindset and the right support, you will be able to get through anything…whether that’s research you want to begin, whether that’s an internship you’re nervous to start or apply for. And what I learned here at UT so far, coming to Chabad, being involved in Sammy, attending class…most of time… is to trust the process, trust the people around you, and trust yourself. Be grateful for where you stand now, but know that wherever you are, it could very well be just a new Beginning.

Shabbat Shalom.




Mayanot Birthright experience









Thank you to everyone who made my Birthright trip so meaningful! It truly was the experience of a life time and I’ll forever be connected to those I got to explore the Holy Land with!
- Jacob Taub






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