Rivkin family creates a spiritual home at Chabad of Towson and Goucher


The Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Towson and Goucher has served the community in Towson since its Chabad emissaries, Rabbi Mendy Rivkin and his wife, Sheiny, moved to the area in 2008. The center has since grown to serve not only college students, but also young Jewish families moving into the area, and its services reflect the range of different age groups that have grown to call Chabad of Towson a home away from home.

Students learn Torah with Rabbi Mendy Rivkin. (Courtesy of Rabbi Mendy Rivkin)

True to the vision of Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who believed that Jews around the world were eager to learn more about their heritage, and who sought to bring Judaism to Jews wherever they were, Rabbi Rivkin, 40, alongside Sheiny Rivkin, 36, moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Towson 15 years ago. In a recent phone interview, Rabbi Rivkin shared that when they moved into the area in 2008, there was a need in Towson that needed to be filled. “Chabad on Campus was growing across the country, and it was obvious there was a need in Towson,” he said. “As we looked at different campuses around the country, we made the decision based on both personal and organizational considerations.” Sheiny Rivkin had family in Baltimore, a factor which persuaded the couple to choose Maryland.

Chabad at Towson serves students attending Towson University and Goucher College. According to its website, Towson has approximately 2,000 Jewish undergraduate students and 300 Jewish graduate students, making its Jewish student population the second largest in Maryland.

Goucher College has approximately 350 Jewish students on campus, which, while smaller, is no less significant.

Both institutions are served by Hillel, which has a presence on university and college campuses all over the world. Rabbi Rivkin said that the work that Chabad carries out is successfully augmented by its many partnerships, including its close working relationship with Hillel and other institutions actively reaching out and engaging young Jewish students, as well as young families.

The Rivkins said that activities at Chabad Towson run the gamut from educational to social, and include programs specifically designed for students and programs for families with young children. In addition to the Rivkins, two other staff members work alongside them to reach out and engage students: Chana and Alex Colin.

Rabbi Rivkin said that Chana Colin is a former Goucher student, with a peace studies major, who was active with Chabad of Towson when she was in college. Upon graduation, she lived in Philadelphia for a while, and, after getting married, decided that she wanted to give back to the Jewish community, moving back to Towson with her husband this past August, and since then working full time with the Rivkins.

The Rivkins carry out their mission of service along with their nine children — seven boys and two girls — who range in ages from two months to 15 years old. They are, the Rivkins said, an integral part of the many activities carried out by Chabad of Towson.

The Rivkins described a busy house — whether they have students for Shabbat dinner on Friday evening, or Shabbat services on Saturday, students are always coming and going.

“We meet students where they are,” Rabbi Rivkin said. “And the important question for us is not how many students we serve, but whether we are meeting their needs when they come, either for dinner or for services. Some students we meet only a handful of times. With others we develop deeper relationships. Many students are eager to learn, and we work to make sure that we have the capacity and resources to serve everyone, whatever their needs may be while they are here at school.”

Naomi Abrams, a junior at Towson University majoring in psychology and business administration with a concentration in human resources, is from Cherry Hill, in south New Jersey. Abrams became involved with the Towson Chabad last year, after she moved to campus. Prior to that, Abrams was taking classes virtually, due to COVID restrictions.

Asked what she loved about Chabad, Abrams replied, “I love that it feels like home; you feel like you are a part of the family. They will always do their best to accommodate you, and I love their kids. It’s so nice to have relationships with them. They are all very sweet, Chaya, the oldest daughter, always makes an extra effort. It’s all the little things that adults sometimes don’t think about, and you can tell that she genuinely cares.”

Sarah Fishkind, who is from Columbia, Maryland, is a senior majoring in political science. Fishkind became involved with Chabad of Towson during her freshman year at Towson University. She has appreciated the ability to go to the Chabad House for Shabbat every weekend and for lunch on Saturdays. Most importantly for Fishkind is the relationship she developed with Sheiny Rivkin. “I had my first interaction with Sheiny. I was facing some tough times, and Sheiny became this motherly figure who always listened to me and who talked to me. Chabad has truly become a home away from home.”

Rebecca Bregman, from Howard County, is a Towson sophomore majoring in psychology. Bregman’s first visit to the Towson Chabad was in the fall of 2021. What she found on that first visit, Bregman shared, was a very warm atmosphere, and so welcoming that it made her want to return. Of the Rivkins, Bregman said, “I love them so much. They have become a second set of parents, and it’s so comforting that I have this home away from home.”

Bregman also loves having the Rivkin children around.

Asked how they remained grounded with so much activity around them, Rabbi Rivkin replied, “With the Torah — we pray, we listen. And when you get to do something that you love, the work is not tiring, but rather, it becomes a precious thing.”

Sheiny Rivkin added, “For us, it’s motivating because we are very fortunate in that we work with people for whom we care about, and who care about us. Our work is also a tremendous opportunity to connect with Jews every day — now, as students, and later, as they marry and have children as well. We remain connected.”

And both agreed that, as Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the spiritual leader of Chabad, taught, creating a welcoming atmosphere becomes second nature when you look at Jews around the world as extended family members.

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