It's Saturday night. Strobe lights are blazing around the darkened room, and music is blaring from the speakers. You can feel the thump, thump, thump of the sound vibrating in your chest. Some college students are dancing to the music. Others are standing on the side, holding cocktail glasses.
Sounds like your average frat party, right?
Take a closer look.
There is a Mechitza, or partition, down the middle of the room, separating the men from the women. The music, if you listen closely, is actually Yiddish or Hebrew versions of pop songs. The DJ is wearing a Kippah. The cocktails are "mocktails," sugary drinks that are unhealthy but certainly not alcoholic.
Welcome to Jewfest 2016.
Chabad is one of the most interesting sects of Judaism. They are an "outreach" group - in other words, they create events that draw in secular Jews and show them the beauty of their Jewish heritage. Jewfest, a weekend experience in Crown Heights, is a perfect example of that attitude. From throwing a kosher frat party to having speakers explain some of the basics of Jewish philosophy, Chabad is hard at work convincing college students that the Jewish religion makes sense - and it's pretty freaking cool.
On this Shabbos, over a thousand college students from all over the world joined together to experience Judaism in a new way. As someone who's already pretty darned religious, I still enjoyed the weekend. I had the opportunity to see Judaism in a different light, to gain insights from classes and conversations that I would never have gotten in a Modern Orthodox setting.
I also got a book called "Going Kosher in Thirty Days! An Easy Step By Step Guide For The Rest of Us." I don't really need it, but that's okay. I love the idea of it, and that's enough.