By Hannah Davidson
At Maryland Hillel’s second annual Friendsgiving Holiday Fundraiser, there were three large trays of pasta, a panini-making station and salads of every kind along one wall. Along the opposite side was a table covered with every sweet imaginable—pies, cookies, candy, whipped cream and hot chocolate.
The event filled Hillel with dozens of people.
For most, the main draws of the event were simply the community and food. Friends Aryeh Roberts and Shlomit Menashe, a sophomore information sciences major, were sure to return after how much they had enjoyed the event last year.
“Friends, free food, meeting new people and giving to a good cause,” Roberts, a junior philosophy major, said when asked his favorite part about the event.
There was a cake-decorating station, a make-your-own-panini table and even a photo booth where students could pose with Thanksgiving-themed props. The food included pasta, breadsticks, salad, cookies, pie, popcorn, candy, chips, paninis and hot chocolate.
The fundraiser was planned and organized mainly by Avital Hirschhorn. She has worked at Maryland Hillel for four years now, as an Orthodox Union Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC) Jewish educator.
Hirschhorn put together last year’s first-ever Friendsgiving Fundraiser, and is thrilled that she was able to host it for a second year, she said.
The event allows students to donate items like clothing, canned goods and money, which are given to local homeless shelters. This past Sunday, a few students drove to various shelters across the Maryland and D.C. area and delivered the goods brought in by students, Hirschhorn said.
“Something that’s overlooked is remembering that there are people who really don’t have basic necessities, and don’t have a family to get together with, and don’t even have warm clothing. We really want to use this opportunity to engage students and recognize that we are so privileged, even though sometimes we might not feel that way,” she said.
The food was provided mostly by the Hillel kitchen staff; however, Hirschhorn made all of the salads and provided the popcorn machine, all desserts and panini foods herself.
For Hirschhorn, the most difficult part of planning is making sure students show up, she said.
Because of this, Hirschhorn posted the event on several Facebook pages along with other social media platforms, and even texted people individually to spread the word.
Meira Goldfischer, a sophomore criminology and criminal justice major, was brought to the event by her friend Madison Fischman, who attended last year and recommended she go.
“It’s a really nice opportunity for us all to be together, especially within the Jewish community,” Goldfischer said.
Similarly, Adoram Lalezari, a fifth-year psychology major, was sure to bring his friend Alex Ghelman, a junior information sciences major, after enjoying last year’s event so much.
Because of how grateful and excited they were for the event, Ghelman and Lalezari came early to assist in setting up. However, they were not the only ones. Multiple students came early to help set the event up, simply in the holiday spirit.
For Hirschhorn, her main goal is for this fundraising Friendsgiving to become an annual event.
“The holiday season is very much about family and coming together, lots of gift-giving, and it’s recognizing everything we have in our lives and everything we’re thankful for, which is beautiful and definitely a Jewish value,” Hirschhorn said.