A socially-distanced SHABBAM brings Jewish students together

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Sophomores Chen Menashe and Keren Binyamin help hand out SHABBAM supplies on Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Nira Dayanim.

By Nira Dayanim
Staff writer
@Mitzpeh

On Friday night, almost 800 students got together at over 80 different Shabbat dinners across campus. Also known as “SHABBAM” or “Shabbat Across Maryland,” this Hillel-hosted event has brought students from different backgrounds together for a Shabbat meal each fall for the past ten years.

“There are some students that are enjoying and hosting Shabbat every week, but many students only have Shabbat once every so often,” said Hillel Assistant Director, MJ Kurs-Lasky. “[SHABBAM] is a great opportunity for students to come together on one night and enjoy the evening together.”

SHABBAM featured a wide variety of meals, including “Sefardi Party,” “Cowboy Shabbat,” “Queer SHABBAM” and “Good Vibes Only.” Meals were hosted by students throughout Hillel’s Reform, Egalitarian and Orthodox communities as well as students not affiliated with any religious denomination. To support students’ Shabbat experiences, Hillel either catered or sponsored the food and helped connect students to meals. 

Chen Menashe, a sophomore neuroscience major, hosted this year’s “Sefardi Party,” which incorporates traditional Sefardi/Mizrahi cuisine and has been a part of SHABBAM for more than five years.

“There’s a minority of Sefardim in the university, so we thought it would be nice to have a meal where everyone could bring food that’s close to home, maybe something that you’re missing or something your mom makes,” said Menashe. “We thought it would be nice for freshmen who don’t have a kitchen because they don’t have access to foods from their culture.” 

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hillel made several adjustments to SHABBAM. Students had the option to host meals outside, online or only with their friends. 

While past years’ meals have included guest lists of over 80 people, meals were limited to ten people or fewer this year. Additionally, Hillel held a virtual host orientation to help build community and get people on the same page about COVID-19 restrictions. 

Despite the changes, SHABBAM was still a highlight for many students this semester. 

Marisa Avni, a freshman public health major, attended a meal titled “Good Vibes Only.” According to Avni, SHABBAM was a great opportunity to meet new people.

“Half of the people at my meal I already knew, but half were new people, like the host and his friends,” said Avni. “Especially now, since there isn’t a lot of interaction with new people, It was a really cool opportunity to meet people who are sophomores and juniors. It feels more like you’re a part of the community,” she said.

Meira Goldfischer, a junior criminology and criminal justice major and president of Hamsa (the Jewish LGBTQ+ group on campus) hosted a ‘Queer SHABBAM’ meal on Friday night. 

“Just having an opportunity to have an extra special Shabbat experience is nice. We got to have a really nice Shabbat dinner which we hadn’t had in a really long time,” Goldfischer said. 

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