By Zachary Mellen
Hillel’s annual A Cappella Family Weekend saw a larger turnout this year than last year, drawing more than 70 families over the weekend of Nov. 1-3, according to Jewish Student Life Coordinator Seth Finkelstein.
Finkelstein said nearly 500 people participated in Shabbat dinner at Hillel on Friday night. “We had literally the whole building covered in tables,” he said.
Saturday was fully scheduled with services and opportunities for visiting families to experience Jewish life at Maryland. Hillel hosted a talk from Matthew Levitt, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, a panel discussion with students and a parents-only conversation with Hillel Executive Director Ari Israel.
The day’s events culminated with an a cappella concert in Memorial Chapel featuring Maryland Jewish groups Kol Sasson, Rak Shalom and Mezumenet, as well as guest group Ani V’ata from New York University. Each performed three songs in front of an enthusiastic audience that filled most of the chapel.
Mezumenet’s members in particular drew laughter when they parodied LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” complete with costumes. Sophomore accounting major Rayna Friedman said the group created the parody last semester during a trip to Hoboken, N.J.
“We were walking home from synagogue one night,” she said, “and we were just singing the real song, and someone said, wouldn’t it be funny if we sang ‘I’m snius and I know it,’ and that’s the word for modesty, and it just fit, right, like where ‘sexy’ would be, so we started doing it right then and there.”
Journalism major Will Friedman, a member of Kol Sasson, said his parents came down from Philadelphia for the concert. He said performing in front of family isn’t very different from singing to any other audience, because “I’ve been in singing groups a lot, and I’ve done it in front of my family so much that it doesn’t really register anymore. I’m used to it.”
A Cappella Family Weekend came about because the university’s Family Weekend tends to fall close to major Jewish holidays, according to Shuli Tropp, director of institutional advancement at Hillel. That wasn’t an issue this year, but the event still provided a chance to showcase the a cappella groups.
“They’re just an amazingly talented group of students,” Tropp said, “and we feel really lucky to have them under the Hillel umbrella of Jewish student groups on campus, and we feel lucky that they’re here and willing to sing to our community and to our families.”