Rabbi Levi Dubrawsky and his wife Leah’s narrow kitchen was full of University of North Texas students preparing gefilte fish, carrot kugel, chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies Thursday night.
The seven women talked about getting into a sorority and their first week back in classes as they stirred and poured. Leah Dubrawsky, 23, helped the students navigate the kosher kitchen.
This was the first kosher cooking class she’s held. She said she enjoys cooking when there is help.
“I never cooked much until I got married,” Leah Dubrawsky said.
Throughout the night she helped the students make the dishes, which were served at the Sabbath service Friday night.
Roommates Sarida Muslow and Shahaf Bareni, who are both from Israel, try to eat kosher as best they can, but it’s difficult in their apartment, Muslow said.
“We do our best, but we can’t do everything,” said Muslow, who is on the UNT swim team and studies accounting.
The Dubrawskys’ house on Houston Place is meant to be a home away from home for Jewish students.
The couple, along with their 1-year-old daughter, moved to Denton from Dallas in March to start Chabad North Texas for students from UNT and Texas Woman’s University. They lived in an apartment until they found their house about a month ago.
And although the Dubrawskys have held only a few events at the house, students already feel welcome.
“It feels like home,” Muslow said as she combined the ingredients for chocolate cake.
She and Bareni enjoy being involved and want to do whatever they can to promote what the Dubrawskys are doing.
“It’s not that we’re religious people, but if we do something related to religion, we want to do this the best way,” said Bareni, who participates in track and field at UNT and is a kinesiology major.
Levi Dubrawsky, 25, said college is a time of discovery for students, and he wants to provide them with a safe and warm environment where they can hang out. Students have already started stopping in for coffee in the mornings, he said.
He will be offering classes on the Torah and Judaism to students. He said he also is available for students curious about the Jewish culture and religion.
The rabbi plans to hold religious services at the house, including Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, on Sept. 16-18.
Rosh Hashana is the first of the High Holy Days. Part of the custom is to sound the shofar, a ram’s horn.
This holiday is a time of repentance, Dubrawsky said. And it’s a time to ask for a healthy and successful year, he said, as well as a celebration of when the world was created.
Yom Kippur, which is Sept. 26 this year, is the day Jews spend most of the day fasting and praying. It’s a time for people to better themselves, he said. Following Yom Kippur is Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles, a time of celebration.
Dubrawsky comes from a line of rabbis. His father is a rabbi in Dallas and his grandfathers also were rabbis.
He noticed there was a need for a Chabad house in Denton, where students would drive to Dallas for services.
Chabad North Texas isn’t the only organization for Jewish students in Denton. Hillel is a social, cultural organization for the estimated 1,000 Jewish students at UNT. Hillel has been at the university for 12 years, said Rebecca Gerbert, director of Hillels of North Texas.
Gerbert said the Jewish population is growing in the North Texas area. Chabad North Texas and Hillel are working to make sure their events don’t overlap, she said.
Dubrawsky wants to offer a “stronger Jewish presence to cause a stronger Jewish awareness,” he said.
“My goal is to bring light to the world,” he said.
And that’s not just a Jewish thing, he said, it’s a humanity thing.
“We want to make this world a better place,” the rabbi said. “It’s a group effort.”
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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