A last minute Friday afternoon call to Rabbi Avremel Vogel, of the Chabad at the University of Delaware, announcing unexpected Shabbos guests, is nothing out of the ordinary. Growing up just off of I-95 in Wilmington, Delaware—and now operating a chabad house at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware—his home has often been a haven to gridlocked Jews in search of a last minute place to stay as Shabbos approaches. But none of those guests prepared the rabbi and his rebbetzin for the scene they witnessed on the Shabbos of Presidents weekend.
The Vogels’ guests were none other than the NJ Avalanche, hockey players who compete in the New Jersey Youth Hockey League (NJYHL). They took over an entire conference room at the Marriott, making it a Shabbos no one in attendance will ever forget.
The Avalanche, like many other teams in the NJYHL, were in town for the The Presidents Cup held at the Patriot Ice Center in Newark, Delaware. However the Avalanche’s three teams (Squirts: birth years 2008/2009, Peewees: birth years 2006/2007 and Bantams: birth years 2004/2005) have set themselves apart by being shomer Shabbos and have managed to navigate all the hurdles that this observance brings, without violating Shabbos or Yom Tov.
One team mom, Leah Adler said, “This team has been a wonderful experience for Eitan. The Ice House and the Avalanche organization have really gone above and beyond in accommodating our schedule and enabling the boys to play at a high level without sacrificing their religious obligations. The experience has also been a great opportunity for our children to demonstrate their priorities. Our team manager, Zvi Rudman, sets the tone by ensuring that we always have minyanim when we travel for tournaments. And when the boys recently earned a spot in the playoffs, it wasn’t clear initially if the league would be able to schedule our first game for a time other than Shabbat. What was clear was that if we were scheduled to play on Shabbat we would forfeit the game.” (The league has since been able to schedule the game to finish before Shabbat).
Rabbi Vogel told JLNJ the following story, “My wife Shulie and I moved down to the University of Delaware about two and a half years ago to cater to the 2,200+ Jewish kids on campus. We’ve had our fair share of stranded Jews needing a place for Shabbos. We’ve also had some shomer Shabbos Jews come down for hockey tournaments in the past, but nothing near as grand, organized and methodical as this one. I was blown away,”
The rabbi explained that about 15 or 20 minutes before Shabbos he got a text, “‘My friend is in the Marriott at the University of Delaware for Shabbos.’ Honestly, it’s not the first time I’ve gotten a text or phone call like that. My mind started to immediately go through the various different ways of getting them food before Shabbos...or maybe it would be easier for them to come over to our house...what if they have kids that don’t walk?”
Then the next text came through. “‘They have a minyan tonight/tomorrow.’ Oh wow! What a treat! I thought. When I walked in to the Marriott on Shabbos morning, I got another surprise. This wasn’t just a minyan. There were 50+ fathers and sons gathered in a large conference room davening Shacharit! In Newark, Delaware!” Rabbi Vogel exclaimed.
“I started schmoozing with some of the guys. As an important side note, that herring selection was one of the best I’ve ever had. Hat tip to Black Tie Events. That’s when Zvi Rudman explained to me why The Marriott was taken over by all these Jews.
“Their kids like playing ice hockey….but there’s no way they’re playing on Shabbos.
So they worked with a league in North Jersey to create the first fully Shomer Shabbos team and now they have three (!!) shomer Shabbos teams that compete in these tournaments! As if the incredible resolve of these kids, and their families, wasn’t impressive enough—these kids can flat out play,” said Rabbi Vogel.
“They played their hearts out and put on a phenomenal show. Two out of the three teams finished the tournament as first and second place winners. But make no mistake, for the kiddush Hashem and public display of Jewish pride alone, these Jews won it all,” he said.
If you are need of a last minute place to stay for Shabbos in Newark, Delaware, the Vogels’ door is always open: Avremel and Shulie Vogel p: 302.377.3840 e: [email protected] www:ChabadUD.org f: Facebook.com/ChabadUD a: 262 S College Ave, Newark, DE 19711