Photos by Benjamin Hurst, Staff Photographer
Chabad and AEPi hosted University of California, Santa Barbara’s annual Shabbat 500 dinner last Friday, May 16. This year’s event at UCSB had a goal of drawing 500 attendees. Large gatherings celebrating Shabbat are held in campuses across the country, with numbers of attendees ranging up from a few hundred to even a thousand. These Shabbat events bring together amazing numbers of students, staff, and members of the community in a celebration of Jewish culture and pride.
Alyssa Lubey, a third-year global studies major, was impressed at the scale of the event.
“It’s a lot bigger than I expected,” said Lubey. She was excited to participate in the Shabbat tradition, as she had not celebrated a big Shabbat since her Birthright trip to Israel in a previous summer.
Co-director of Chabad at UCSB Rochel Loschak played a key role in organizing the event. Because this was the third annual large Shabbat event held at UCSB, Loschak knew how great an undertaking the event was.
“It was a lot of work, but it was great,” said Loschak. “It’s exciting and amazing to host something so big and unifying. It is a night of unity, tradition, Judaism, and Jewish culture.”
Loschak emphasized the inclusive nature of the event, which welcomes people from all walks of life, Jews and non-Jews alike.
“[At Shabbat 500, people] see what it means to be Jewish and experience Judaism in its fullest and most joyous,” she said. “It is a way to expose and not impose Judaism.”
The dinner took place after prayer services at Hillel in a large tent lit by strings of lights. Before the feast began, organizers and speakers like Chabad’s Rabbi Mendel and president of UCSB’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi Michael Rosen came up to express gratitude for the event.
“It’s the day of the week that we’re all blessed with to sit and reflect on everything that we did throughout the week. Shabbat 500 [has become] something we can look forward to every year, even if you don’t go to Shabbat throughout the year,” said Rosen. “Take in the sanctity of the day, and really reflect about what it means to be sitting here with the whole Jewish community. Think about how the whole week has gone and think about what you can do to make next week better for you.”
Tables were set with Shabbat candles, which were lit by female attendees in a traditional ceremony. For attendees unfamiliar with Shabbat, organizers provided informational sheets on the various aspects of the special Friday night dinner. Guests were guided through different ritual acts, such as ritual hand washing and sharing of grape juice in lieu of wine, before the meal was served.
“It’s a mitzvah [charitable act] to honor and enjoy Shabbat with delicious foods,” explains the sheet. “We have a tradition of taking this very seriously: make sure to feast!”
The night was filled with laughter, song, prayer, and, of course, food. Guests were treated to homemade challah, salads, matzoh ball soup, potato kugel, roasted chicken, and a dramatic spread of desserts.
Loschak, who cited the fact that there are about 3,000 Jewish students at UCSB, hopes that next year’s Shabbat event will be even bigger. She encourages all students to visit Chabad.
“It’s a place where students can come to avoid the chaos of the weekend,” Loschak said. “It’s a lighthouse bringing light to Isla Vista.”
For more information about Chabad at UCSB, visit http://www.jewcsb.com/.