In the microcosm of Arizona State University, it is predictable students are going to suffer from the aches and pains of colds, the flu, and everything in between, particularly in winter months. Thanks to the Rohr Chabad House at ASU, when bugs bed down, souper-heroes are available to come to the rescue. For more than ten years, Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel and his wife Chana have been supplying ailing students with an exceptional brand of TLC – homemade chicken soup, replete with savory vegetables and matzo balls. Also known as “Jewish penicillin,” the soup is cooked by Chana, and then stored in a freezer. It can then be served piping hot to students who request it through an online portal.
The Tiechtels began soup deliveries a short time after starting the Chabad House, 15 years ago. They realized the need sick students had for not only the medicinal value of soup but the warm fuzzy of love and comfort it provides psychologically. “Many times parents are far away, even if they reside in Arizona,” says Rabbi Tiechtel. “It’s not a good place for the students to be – alone and stuck in bed. We wanted to make them feel better and have an experience that reminded them of home.”
The idea for the soup was originally intended for Chabad students but soon expanded to non-Chabad students and non-Jews as well. “We are happy to help, whoever it is,” says Rabbi Tiechtel. They even received national attention when CBS National News covered their story. “We received positive feedback from people all over the U.S. after it aired,” says the rabbi.
“Soup angels” also include Office Administrator for the ASU Chabad House, Anna Pena, ASU Chabad Outreach Director, Rabbi Mendy Rimler, and wife, Sarah, who is the program director. Students themselves are also part of the “paying it forward” theme, as they deliver soup as well.
Inspired by the love and dedication of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, The Tiechtels moved to Tempe from a “small town back East, called New York” as the rabbi jokingly calls it. He and Chana started a small Chabad House at ASU, which expanded quickly. “We knew that students want connection, and a family comfort feeling,” he explains. “What we offer is love and acceptance of you, for who you are.” The Chabad House aims to cater to many dimensions of student life and offers a multitude of stimulating classes and welcoming Jewish experiences. Shabbat dinners, classes, events, programs, and barbeques (Chababq’s) are just a sampling of their rich and varied offerings.
“Every student needs a caring adult in their life,” says the rabbi. “The students know we are here for them. We want to meet students needs; whether it’s a safe space, soup, or learning about Judaism – putting up mezuzah, putting on tefillin, or even dealing with roommates. Some of our fun activities include sushi nights, basketball events and game nights. Our goal is to be a home away from home for students. We are a lighthouse for education for both the Jewish and non-Jewish community.”
To order soup, visit jewishasu.com/soup; to donate to the program, visit jewishasu.com/givesoup.