By Alex Pacinda
For the Mitzpeh

For students all over campus, Shabbat is a special time – it means spending time with friends and family. For some, it is their closest connection to Judaism.  

“My dad was adopted and doesn’t know his birth family, so Judaism is the only connection I have that unites my birth grandparents with my adopted grandparents,” Jessie Brodsky, a reform junior biology major said.  “I didn’t really get to experience any Jewish practice until college, so Shabbat is something that reminds me of this cool other piece of my life.”

The wining and dining of Friday night dinners has been a staple for Fran Horowitz, a sophomore communications major who was raised conservative.  

“My family has Shabbat dinner every Friday night, and I guess when I was younger that meant no sleepovers or hanging out with my friends,” Horowitz said.  “Now that I’m older, I realize how important it is that we have this weekly tradition together, and I can’t wait to share it with my own family.”

“My favorite part about Shabbat dinners is the challah bread,” Greg Handler, a senior business management major, said. “I always steal a piece from the bottom before dinner.”

Challah bread traditionally eaten on Shabbat. Photo courtesy of Amanda Engel.
Challah bread traditionally eaten on Shabbat. Amanda Engel/Mitzpeh.

It can be hard for some to observe all of the rules of Shabbat while on campus, but Rabbi Yonaton Hirschhorn of the Orthodox Union’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Learning Center Initiative on Campus offered some advice.  

“The laws of Shabbat can seem overwhelming for students especially during times like finals week,” Hirschhorn said. “I like to think of it as a way to reflect, step back from the stress, and take some time with your loved ones.”

With family close to campus, Josh Leibowitz, a senior government and politics major, is able to spend this special time at home.  

“Shabbat for me means that my family takes time out of their busy schedules to come together and talk about everyday occurrences,” Leibowitz said.  “Even though we might not be able to do it every Friday, we try to make each one special with a home cooked meal.”

Chabad Rabbi Eli Backman finds that Shabbat dinners bring together students of all religions.  

“We always encourage people to bring their friends and roommates to experience Shabbat dinner,” Backman said.  “Most have no idea what to expect, and I think it’s very heartwarming to see everyone gathered together, no matter their faith.”

With the end of the semester approaching, students like Brittany Goodman, a sophomore English major, is eager to head home and get back into her “Shabbat routine.”  

“I guess it was hard for me to adjust without my family especially since transferring to Maryland,” Goodman said.  “I was so used to doing Shabbat a certain way, but I hope that next year I will be able to make more connections in the Jewish community here and go to the Friday Shabbat dinners … they seem so fun!”


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