Photo by Marissa Perez
Following last year’s packed Shabbat 360, University of California, Santa Barbara’s own local Chabad house hosted an even more ambitious event with Shabbat 500, treating a group of around 500 students and community members to a full Shabbat dinner.
The event was attended by a wide variety of students, UCSB staff, and people from the Isla Vista and Santa Barbara community, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
“Chabad is a very inclusive thing, we really open our home to everyone,” said Rochel Loschok, co-director of the UCSB Chabad. “We’re always growing bigger, always doing more.” She added that one of the most exciting parts of the event was also “bringing the whole local Jewish community together.”
Third-year biopsychology major Micahel Shayefar, who worked to help plan and fundraise for the event, said that one of his favorite parts of the event was “seeing the students you normally don’t get to see,” both inside and outside of the local Jewish community and “bringing people together.” Remy Kahn, a fourth-year communication major and fellow organizer of Shabbat 500, compared this event to other local community gatherings.
“Putting on an event like this provides a different kind of focus…than what you might usually see [in Isla Vista], it’s more uplifting in a sense,” said Kahn.
“The first thing that comes to my mind when I stand here today is ‘wow’,” said UCSB’s Rabbi Mendel, speaking before the gathered crowd.
Many attendees recalled their own experiences with Shabbat dinners at home, while the uninitiated were guided through the proper observance of Shabbat by Rabbi Mendel and a sheet of step-by-step instructions provided at each table to allow everyone to follow along. Immediately after blessings and prayers, practices like the lighting of the Shabbat candles by the women in attendance, the guests ritually washing their hands, and the sharing of grape juice (in lieu of the usual wine) were followed before the meal began.
The evening was one of prayer, song, dance, and an abundance of food, with attendees being served a series of many familiar Shabbat staples, all homemade.
“My father made all the challah you see on the table,” shared Mendel. The meal continued throughout the duration of the event and included common dishes like roasted asparagus, matzo ball soup, roast chicken, hummus, varieties of salad, and, of course, plenty of dessert.
“A week ago when Rabbi Mendel said we’re going to put…[Shabbat 500] together in one week I thought ‘no way’,” said Josh Schiff, president of UCSB’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi. The event, however, seemed to go off without a hitch, starting near sundown and continuing on well into the night with students from all parts of the community coming together to eat, chat, and observe Shabbat.
Shabbat 500 was made possible through the efforts and funding of a number of campus organizations, including UCSB’s After Dark program, as well as students and community members alike.