Junior Josh Abrams stands over a table in the basement of Hillel, knees bent slightly to lower his eyes to the man seated beside him.
The seated man is much older, with a dark gray beard that falls to his chest. A wide-brimmed black hat covers his long gray hair, and he wears a black jacket, tied at the waist like a robe, covered with shiny blue paisley patterns. He holds Abrams’ hand in one of his and squeezes his cheek with the other, speaking quietly into the student’s ear.
Abrams, along with about 100 other students, met with the Kalover Rebbe Moses Taub Wednesday at Hillel. Rebbe is a Judaic title that denotes the leadership of a certain sect or group. Taub is the leader of the Kalov Hasidic Jewish sect and he said he has spent the past 30 years traveling across 50 countries and meeting with students to discuss their Jewish religion and heritage.
“I come to bless them and to encourage them,” Taub said. “Part of uplifting them is to help them find things that they may have lost.”
The rebbe said he helps Jewish students regain the most important parts of their faith.
“There are a lot of Jewish students who are unfortunately not given the opportunity to know what has given strength for thousands of years to the Jewish nation – their forbearers,” he said. “These forbearers were so firm in the Torah, the mitzvah and the Commandments. Having the mitzvah and the Torah are such great benefits.”
Senior Zach Cutler organized Wednesday’s event. Cutler said he first met the rebbe eight years ago at his Los Angeles high school.
“I went to his office and spent five minutes with him and he knew things about me, like he could get a reading on my soul,” Cutler said. “It really inspired me. I promised him that I would start keeping Shabbat, and I have been doing that for eight years.”
Cutler said he contacted the rebbe’s office two months ago in hopes of bringing his inspiration to the strong Jewish population at GW.
“I think that he can really inspire people, uplift them, refresh their perspectives,” Cutler said.
Abrams, who is an active member of the Jewish community on campus and the president of the Jewish Student Association, met the rebbe for the first time Wednesday.
“He told me where I was in life and what my future might look like,” Abrams said. “He also told me what I might need to do to get there. To have a great future with all of these open possibilities, I need to study more.”
Abrams described his meeting with the rebbe as an advising session, providing a road map for success and reminding students of the importance of their commitment to their faith.
“It’s nice that he came to meet with GW students, to learn about the students and to show them what to do, according to what he believes,” Abrams said.
The rebbe said he found the students he had met so far at GW to be “very fine boys.”