“What time are we going to be there?” Yuss asked me again.
“Not sure—maybe 3 p.m.?”
I know from experience that it is wise to tell Yuss the latest time possible so that he doesn’t feel bad if we end up at our destination too late (in his eyes).
“What time is Shabbos there?”
“Same time as here, Yuss.”
“What time? Five p.m.? Six p.m.?” (He always needs a more specific answer.)
“I don’t know . . . maybe 5:50 p.m.?”
“What time is minyan Shabbos morning?”
“Not sure, Yuss. Maybe 9:20 a.m.?”
Yosef Binyamin Lubin is a man who needs to know his schedule: where he is going to be; what he is going to eat; and what time each event will occur during the course of the day, week, and month. We have been planning for this weekend for quite some time, hence reviewing the calendar with Yussie each week.
When Rochel first left for SUNY Albany, we were a bit nervous. Although we had made sure that the school had a solid Chabad House, with Rabbi Mendel and Rebbetzin Raizi Rubin at its helm, we weren’t positive how much our daughter would be inspired to take advantage of all it had to offer. Plucked out of a relatively cloistered frum environment in the Five Towns to a more free experience at a secular college could be an eye-opening experience for many teenagers. How would she react? What paths would she choose? We were pretty confident that Rochel would choose the path we had instilled within her growing up.
Family Weekend was scheduled for October 18–20. It would be great to visit Rochel and see the sights of her college life. We would not be able to go away for Shabbos without Yussie and Lea in tow, and we didn’t know exactly how far away the hotels were from the school. And so I reached out to the Rubins, and asked which place we should seek out, considering that Yussie would not be able to walk great distances at night (or during the day, for that matter). The response from Rebbetzin Raizie Rubin was that we should stay at their home for Shabbos!
At SUNY Albany, the Chabad building is called the Shabbos House. This building is not only the center of Chabad student activities for the collegiates, but also their home-away-from-home every Shabbos. The Rubins live in Shabbos House with their wonderful family. The building is a block off campus. It’s deceiving that it is called Shabbos House, since the activities stemming from Chabad continue throughout the week. But perhaps, as in Yussie’s eyes, our week is supposed to revolve around Shabbos, hence “Shabbos House.”
The Chabad at SUNY Albany works in conjunction with the Hillel. In fact, they switch off as Friday-night dinner hosts each week with Hillel, but ensure that the Friday-night minyan on a Hillel-hosted dinner week is led by Rabbi Rubin. For Family Weekend we experienced such a Shabbos, and had a taste of both Hillel and Chabad. Friday-night davening was led by Rabbi Rubin at The Interfaith Center, and dinner was hosted by Hillel with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rubin in attendance in that same building on campus, while Shabbos morning, Shabbos lunch, and Minchah/shalosh seudos/Ma’ariv is always conducted at Shabbos House.
Friday-night davening did not begin until 7, while Shabbos actually began at 5:50, so Rebbetzin Rubin provided us and other parents and students a “pre-Shabbos” meal at around 5:30 to tide us (and all the parents staying at hotels nearby) over until the Friday-night meal was served after davening. A perfect situation for our crew, who would surely grow antsy waiting for the later davening! The Hillel meal was tasty and the Rubins even treated us to a cozy family after-dinner meal back at Shabbos House consisting of matzah-ball soup and noodle kugel.
Not knowing what to expect for our weekend, and not wanting to take advantage of the Rubins’ hospitality too much, we came stocked with little boxes of cereal and snacks to be able to serve our crew breakfast each morning. That was certainly not necessary! Each morning, the Rubins put out a spread for breakfast—every choice of cereal and yogurt imaginable, with hot water for tea and coffee too. This Shabbos House is truly a home. In the short time we were there, the Rubins made us feel like we were part of their family. Lea and Yussie bonded with their children, and I could see by the relationship between Rochel and the Rubins that Rochel has become part of their family as well.
Our Shabbos was a relaxed and warm experience. After the moving Shabbos-morning davening (which, incidentally, took place at 10 a.m.), with a Minchah minyan right after, and the sumptuous lunch that followed, Rochel took us for a walk around campus, and hosted us to a feast of chips and soda in her dorm room.
Rochel lives in the Jewish L–LC (Living–learning community). All freshmen are given the opportunity to live in learning communities. L–LCs allow students to meet like-minded students, live in the same residence hall, and take some classes with others who share similar interests or intended academic majors. Students who reside in an L–LC enjoy all the same amenities as other residents, yet benefit from a unique living experience. The Jewish L–LC brings together students who are interested in Judaism. They live together on the same floor, take a couple of Jewish classes together throughout the year, and have Jewish L–LC activities throughout their first year of school.
After our brief walking tour of the campus, we returned to Shabbos House for some quiet time. Then, about 5 o’clock, we were served a delicious shalosh seudos, with divrei Torah from the rabbi, a student, and other parents, and some singing that we all enjoyed! After Ma’ariv, we all surrounded Rabbi Rubin for the Havdalah service.
Saturday night’s entertainment was a trip with Rochel to the neighborhood Wal-Mart. According to my Google search, the Albany store is the largest in the U.S.A.! There are even escalators for the shopping carts!
Sunday morning, Lenny and Yussie visited the local Albany shul (morning davening at Chabad wasn’t until later, and both our men were up and ready for an 8 a.m. davening), followed by another lovely breakfast offered to us by the Rubins. We packed up and said our good-byes to the Rubin family. We were so happy that we had the opportunity to “meet and eat” with the Rubins and with Rochel and her friends and their families over the weekend.
We concluded with a trip with Rochel to the Kosher Price Chopper area of the local Price Chopper to pick up some needed sustenance for Rochel (and of course some more bargains for us as well), and an early lunch at the Dining Hall. For some reason this was a “must” on Yussie’s to-do list. He wanted to eat at the Albany Dining Hall. Fortunately, the kosher dining line is in the dining hall in Rochel’s quad. We were able to meet Rabbi Bomzer, the head of the Capital District Vaad as well as the head of Albany’s kosher kitchen. He assured us that if Rochel has any specific meal requests she should contact him and that they would accommodate her menu needs.
Our Family Weekend at SUNY Albany was a huge success! We now have a personal vision of her friends and the places she attends every day. We are so glad that we experienced this taste of Rochel’s college life. Shabbos House is Rochel’s home away from home, and is now ours too! v
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children—Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea—and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.