Jewish Students Find Community at Mega Shabbat


Morgan Bubman

Similarly to the Shabbas candles, Friday night’s Mega Shabbat event was lit. Jointly hosted by the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Hillel, Chabad, and Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity chapter, the Mega Shabbat festivities looked and felt like a large family gathering.

The friendliness and warmth among attendees was instantly noticeable. Before Shabbat dinner began, the guests all mingled with each other, spreading introductions and greetings  throughout the large crowd that managed to fill the Chabad’s backyard. Rabbi Gershon Klein, a practicing Rabbi at Chabad, attempted to personally welcome each attendee and later stood on a chair to loudly and graciously welcome the entire crowd.

While prayers over the bread and wine were short, they were memorable. After female guests were asked to light the candles, Rabbi Gershon invited Benjamin Darey, a fourth year communication studies major, to recite the full Hebrew Kiddush, also known as “blessing over the wine.” Rabbi Gershon proceeded to recite the HaMotzi, or “blessing over the bread.” Once he had asked guests to ceremoniously wash their hands, the feasting began. The automatic recitation of each prayer by the vast majority of Chabad’s attendees was impressive.

Laughs and loud conversations filled the yard of the Chabad House for the entirety of the event, with young children telling clever jokes into the microphone while guests waited for their main courses. Many of the guests made sure to thank Miri Klein, Rabbi Gershon’s wife, for cooking such a large and delicious meal for everyone. Third year communication studies major Ariel Dankner touched upon the meaning of the event, stating, “[Mega Shabbat is] a great way of bringing all the Jewish students in the community together for a delicious meal, courtesy of Miri.”

“The dope thing about Shabbat is that it creates a meaningful and spiritual infrastructure for your community,” noted Daniel Haim, a neurological sciences graduate student. Haim was not alone in feeling this particular hosting of Shabbat was meaningful, with Darey also commenting on the event, “It’s nice to see so many different kinds of Jewish people all here together. There’s such a big turnout, it’s really refreshing.”

With the large pro-Divestment, anti-Israel wall that had encompassed the plaza outside of the Arbor last week, Mega Shabbat seemed especially meaningful to Isla Vista’s Jewish community. Due to negative emotions and feelings associated with the wall, the conversations about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement were kept to a minimum. Despite feelings of anger and disbelief towards the misrepresentation of Israel on the wall, the Students Supporting Israel members who attended Mega Shabbat could agree that the wall had, at the very least, brought the Isla Vista and UCSB Jewish communities closer together in solidarity.

SSI members in attendance, rather than focusing their energy on discussions of BDS and Divestment, spent the night laughing and reminiscing about old memories and recent events hosted in honor of Israel Peace Week from May 1st to May 5th. The laughter, friendliness, and warmth remained throughout the rest of the event, even as guests left and the crowd dwindled.