It’s Friday evening at Tulane, and I’d like to invite you to come with me for a brief look around. All over campus, students are preparing for a “night out”.

But, inside one building on Freret St., about 120 students are sitting crowded into a large room, preparing for a significantly different experience – the experience of Shabbat. As my children go through the explanation about the two angels, Lauren* and Samantha*, two freshmen from the Boston area, listen attentively. Lauren is a graduate of a Jewish high school in Boston, and, for her, Shabbat is an opportunity to re-experience home. Every Friday night, her family celebrates Shabbat, and Chabad provides her with an opportunity to recreate that at college. For Samantha, Shabbat is a new experience. She had relatively little Jewish education, and she is soaking up the Jewish spirit that is so available at Chabad.

As the crowd bursts into the sound of Shalom Aleichem, the traditional greeting song for the Shabbat angels, let’s look at Aaron* a junior from an area in the United States with very few Jewish families. For Aaron, Tulane, with its large Jewish population, was a completely new experience. Early in his freshman year, Aaron starting coming to Shabbat dinner at Chabad with a few friends, and he is now a member of the Chabad Student Board. Aaron raises his hands and claps boisterously, getting the students around him into the Shabbat spirit.

Now, Kiddush is beginning, and the students are all on their feet, holding tiny plastic shot glasses with wine. As I recite the blessing, Alexis* yells “L’Chaim”, then sings along with the Kiddush prayer. This is her first Shabbat dinner at Chabad in a month. During sorority recruitment season, Friday nights were so busy that she was not able to make it over for dinner, and now it feels like being back at home.

Prayers completed, dinner begins, with Challah, Chumus, dips and the famous Chabad chip salad. Dalia* accompanied her friends to Chabad for the first time, this week, and as I go around the room introducing every student, and sometimes stumbling on the names of people that I have only met once or twice, she waits nervously, hoping to be recognized. As I introduce her - “Dalia, from Long Island” – a broad smile breaks out on her face. It is good to be somewhere where people know your name.

Soup is served, and it’s Stephanie’s* Jewish birthday this week. She wasn’t going to come to Chabad for Shabbat this week, but I sent her a facebook message telling her about her Jewish birthday, so she is here for cake. She smiles happily as everyone sings “Happy Birthday”, and then shares the giant birthday cupcake with her friends.

Marc* rises and begins the student Dvar Torah. When I asked him to give the Dvar Torah this week, he was unsure that it was for him. But, now, he speaks with assuredness, sharing his own insights into the weekly Parsha with the students at Shabbat dinner.

After the main course is served and a couple Shabbat songs are sung, Steven* comes through the door. He might be a little late, but he knows that there is always going to be food and friends even if you come an hour and a half late to Shabbat dinner. As Steven finds his seat, Sarah begins to tell the weekly Shabbat story -  a story with a great lesson, full of meaning and inspiration.

My friends, there is one person missing from this tour. And, that person is you. Without your help, we can’t keep providing Shabbat experiences for Lauren, for Samantha, for Aaron, for Dalia, for Stephanie, for Marc, for Stephen and for hundreds of others. Our weekly Shabbat dinners cost us $1800, and we need your generous support to continue to make them happen.

Please consider giving generously to Chabad! Sponsor a Shabbat dinner, and bring Shabbat spirit and joy to so many sons and daughters of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin