By Jeremy Snow
On Nov. 22, University of Maryland’s Hillel will be continuing a seven-year tradition of bringing Jews together for one night to share a fun Shabbat dinner with their friends and students.
The event, called Shabam, finds students across Maryland willing to host a Friday night Jewish meal and allows anyone to join them. The goal is to bring as many students together by having an entertaining Shabbat in an easy way.
“Shabam really isn’t a traditional Shabbat dinner. It’s more a social experience meant to remind you of Shabbat dinners with your friends or family at home or at camp,” said senior family sciences major Talia Brown, who has participated in Shabam during her entire college career.
While each Shabam varies in the amount of guests and time length of the dinner, most Shabam meals feature a combination of prayers, conversations, icebreaker games, funny stories, and, of course, food. Hillel offers three types of multi-coursed meals for free: a vegetarian meal, a kosher meal, and a kosher-style chicken dinner. If students prefer to cook their own meal, Hillel will reimburse them for the money spent.
Though about 800 students are expected to participate in Shabam, Hillel is not focused on the numbers. Hillel’s goal this year is to ensure the quality of each host is the best it can be; by making sure dinners are friendly and fun.
“Shabam isn’t just some event that people come to to pick up food. We want to make each meal memorable,” said Maiya Chard-Yaron, the Director of Educational Engagement for Hillel. She is also helping plan Shabam.
Usually, participants will host Shabam meals for specific groups or clubs around campus. For example, there is one Shabam that will host people from Atlanta, while another is based around the dorm building Ellicott Hall. Chard-Yaron said it was common for participants to host meals for their living-learning programs or Birthright groups.
Shabam also encourages guests to open their meals to strangers. While sometimes this just means inviting a friend of a friend, other times hosts will be feeding people they do not know at all. This situation may sound awkward, but senior economics major Nadav Karasov said he had no issues with this.
“I’ve met some of my good friends just by meeting them at Shabam. The dinner really gives you a way to meet people you wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise,” said Karasov, who has participated in Shabam since his freshman year and is now on the committee board for the event.
No matter the type of group, all Shabam dinners are meant to be welcoming, even to those who are not Jewish but are curious of the traditions. Shabam is one of the few times different denominations of Judaism can come together and not worry about being in a setting they are not comfortable in.
“There’s people who do different religious things at dinners, but they are all welcomed. There is no real pressure to follow the way the service is going or if you want to do it a different way. It’s all very inclusive,” said Brown.
Those who are interested in participating must fill out a short form online as either a host that will organize the dinner, or a guest who will attend one. Visit http://www.marylandhillel.org/shabam2013/.