By Kate Casey
Over 1,000 students gathered around dinner tables across this university’s campus in celebration of SHABAM Friday night.
SHABAM, which stands for “Shabbat Across Maryland” is sponsored by the Gorlin Family Foundation, which helped over 100 students host their peers for a Shabbat dinner across campus — in dorms, apartments, Greek houses, and at Hillel at this university. Hillel helped students host the meals by catering or providing a stipend to students to cook their own meals, said Talia Orencel, the director of engagement and social justice for Hillel.
Many of the Shabbat dinners were structured around a particular theme, with people joining together from various clubs and organizations around campus, as well as reuniting friends from Birthright trips, Orencel said.
Orencel explained to attendees that Shabbat is a way of bringing people together while sharing a meal and reflecting on the week. Orencel attended a number of dinners hosted at different locations across campus, and she said she was happy to see the diversity in the dinners hosted in size, venue, and religious observance. Despite the differences, each dinner was an opportunity for people to get together, share a meal, and enjoy each other’s company after a long week, Orencel said.
Sophomore public policy major Mia Stein was one of the four co-chair’s planning SHABAM this year, and she said one of the main goals going into planning the event this year was to create a space where people could have more meaningful conversations and form relationships.
“We wanted to bring the community together and be able for them to celebrate Shabbat together, but we also wanted them to have deeper conversations about life and college, and we wanted for people to enjoy this time together through that,” she said.
Stein stopped in at 18 of the dinners planned, and she said she was happy to see the conversations happening at the different locations.
“I saw a lot of people meeting new people for the first time and welcoming them into their apartments,” said Stein. “It was pretty incredible to watch all of these new friendships be born.”
Senior government and politics and Chinese major Samantha Shiller attended her first SHABAM this year, and she said she was surprised to see how accepting the hosts were of different backgrounds of people.
“I expected it to be a lot more strict and structured around Judaism,” she said. “They were very aware of the people who do not practice the religion, but they also kept some of the aspects of it that needed to be there for Shabbat.”
College Mentors for Kids’ Vice President of Programming Chelsea Johnson attended her second SHABAM dinner with the club this year, and she said it is an important part of their club’s bonding.
“It serves as a great opportunity to get to know our mentors outside of the context of activity days, which I think is really important for establishing a camaraderie within our club,” said the junior neurobiology and physiology major. “The people who were there enjoyed a really nice meal together, so I would still call that a success in my book.”