By Molly Zatman
Copy EditorA Shabbat dinner table (Molly Zatman/ Mitzpeh)
Maya Goldberg, a sophomore hearing and speech sciences major, spent part of her Friday night leaning over her kitchen sink, carefully annunciating a Hebrew prayer one word at a time. Goldberg, who was hosting a Shabbat dinner, was teaching her non-Jewish classmates the Jewish ritual for washing hands, netilat yadayim, guiding them one word at a time to complete the blessing.
Goldberg held the meal as part of SHABBAM, or Shabbat Across Maryland, an annual Hillel event which aims for Jewish students all over campus to host or attend a free Shabbat meal. Goldberg had the idea to host a meal for her friends in her living-learning College Park Scholars Public Leadership program, both Jewish and non-Jewish, as part of the larger event on Nov. 12.
“I wanted to show non-Jews what I do every week, so I used this opportunity to invite my friends,” Goldberg explained. “And I really love explaining practices to people, watching them experience something new.”
Joyce Lee, a second year marketing major, had never been to a Shabbat dinner before.
“Being able to come in and learn about the practices, like not using electronics and what’s considered rest, and being able to ask questions was so valuable,” Lee said.
Guests were served traditional Shabbat foods, including grape juice, challah, matzah ball soup, hummus, seasoned chicken and steamed root vegetables. For dessert, Goldberg baked peanut-butter brownies and rugelach.
“I really like the rugelach. They looked like tiny croissants,” Lee said.
Ashlyn Mann, a sophomore information science major, said this was her first ever interaction in a non-Christian setting.
Mann, from rural Cambridge, Maryland, said, “My roommate is Jewish, but she was the first Jewish person I met. My mom grew up around some Jewish cultures, so she told me about it a little bit, but I never had personal interactions. I knew about Hanukkah.”
Mann said the dinner gave her insight into both Jewish culture and religion beyond a rudimentary understanding. It was a chance to be immersed in the experience rather than hear second-hand accounts, she explained.
“I loved the bread – the challah – was so good. I liked the hand cleansing, I really appreciated how Maya walked me through it. And the washing basin was beautiful,” Mann said.
Grace Walsh-Little, a sophomore environmental science and policy major, had attended several Shabbat dinners in high school, but none of which were the “same” as Goldberg’s.
“It was my first time really getting to see so many customs, like washing my hands with Maya’s help and sharing bread. I felt really honored to be a part of that,” Walsh-Little said.
She also explained that both the practices and the host’s efforts created a welcoming atmosphere.
“It’s very meaningful and personal. While we were eating dinner, Maya made sure we went around and did ice breakers. The entire dinner felt about being connected to people around me,” Walsh-Little said.
Goldberg said she loved being able to foster such an intimate and special environment.
“I want to host another dinner like this sometime in the future,” she said, “and it helps me a lot, too. For me, Shabbat is routine, so inviting non-Jewish people reminds me how special and unique this practice is. It re-inspires me.”