By Tori Bergel
Maryland Hillel welcomed students to a special Israeli-themed Shabbat dinner Friday night to kick off Israel Week 2018.
The first thing students noticed walking through the front door of the Rosenbloom Hillel Center were the decorations. There was a wall shaped like the Israeli flag with 70 knots tied on it, a staircase with pictures alongside it from numerous students’ trips to Israel, and another wall covered in pictures of the country students could vote on as part of an Israel photo contest.
Past all of the scenery, however, there was laughter pouring out of the multipurpose room. Inside, students were cracking up to the stylings of local, Jewish stand-up comedians Benjy Himmelfarb and Matty Litwack.
On the tables, an array of classic Israeli food like falafel, shawarma, and Israeli salad had been served, while candy kabobs that could be straight from the Jerusalem shuk were the centerpieces.
All of this was done for Hillel’s “Mega Israel Shabbat” dinner this weekend—a night full of fun and festive Israel-themed activities and food to kick off Israel week on campus, and lead up to Israel’s big 70th birthday on Thursday.
“I loved the comedians!” freshman criminology and criminal justice major Zoe Tesser said when asked what her favorite part of the night was. “I thought they were really funny, and did a great job relating to an audience of Jewish college students.”
Another student in attendance, freshman finance major Eric Schneider, thought that “Mega Israel Shabbat” was a “really good event,” adding that he thought the “diverse crowd made conversation extremely interesting, and the dinner was a great way of meeting new people.”
In addition to promoting Israel week, the Mega Israel dinner was also a send-off Shabbat for students traveling to Israel on Birthright this coming summer. Birthright is a trip that brings Jewish students to Israel for around two weeks to tour throughout the country and learn more about its rich history.
Sophomore public relations major Lauren Gershon, one of the many students going on the trip this coming May, added that she saw the meal as a nice send-off. She said she is now even more excited to visit Israel and “meet new people and make more experiences.”
Another sophomore, marketing and management business major Lea Glazer, has already been to Israel many times, but says that her favorite thing about the country is “that no matter how observant you are, how many times you’ve been, or who you know (or don’t know), when you arrive, Israel is home to every Jew.”
When asked about her thoughts on “Mega Israel Shabbat,” she said that it was “so fun! It was a really great way to unite Jewish students from all over campus and get those about to embark on birthright excited about their upcoming experiences!”