In the 13th arrondissement of the City of Light, where classical Baroque and Belle Époque architecture rub shoulders with modern skyscrapers, boats of all kinds dot the left bank of the Seine.

The Parisian quarter, home to several colleges and universities, is teeming with students from all over the world, including around 30,000. Boats are popular places to mingle, dine, and party for the bustling student body, albeit a barge. stands.

The long white ship with blue stripes looks just like any other until you walk up the gangway and enter to find out it’s the Chabad on Campus Floating Lounge. During the day, it is a space where Jewish students can study, relax or attend a Torah to classify; at night, it becomes the favorite place for Parisian Jews to celebrate engagements or birthdays.

Rabbi Mendy and Mushky Lachkar, co-directors of Chabad in the 13th district, focus on the neighborhood’s 2,000 or so Jewish students. They started in 2014, providing kosher meals, giving Torah lessons and organizing Shabbat meals; however, the layout of the neighborhood and the typically Parisian small apartments presented a challenge.

The interior of the Chabad on Campus area on the Seine. Credit: Chabad.org/News.

“There are a number of schools here spread across the district,” says Rabbi Lachkar, explaining that the students do not have a single central location and do not live on campus. The high cost of housing and lack of space made it difficult to host programs at home. The Lachkars started renting boats on the Seine to host events, and that’s when the rabbi saw the solution. “Why not just buy a boat and turn it into a Chabad house?” “

At 130 feet long and 16 feet wide, Chabad’s boat fills a practical need while also serving as a creative place that attracts students. “It’s a comfortable space and people feel right at home,” says Lachkar, adding that the boat, which they started using in September, will undergo major renovations over the next few months to give it a touch. more modern.

“It’s a place where I can connect with friends and with Torah,” says Binyamin Dukan, 20, a student at the Paris Business School. “This is the perfect place to share a moment with other Jews and eat something kosher.”

Dukan explains that prior to the Chabad boat’s permanent location, he didn’t have kosher dining options on campus. “The boat is nearby and very accessible; it’s a space where I can study, put tefillin or just relax. And the rabbi and his wife are so inviting.

For Dukan, one thing attracts him the most: “There is nothing like the pleasure of putting on tefillin on the Seine.

Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org/News.

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