When 30 students crowded into the basement of the Hillel building wearing bold numbers taped to their chests, it looked as if a marathon was about to start. These students were here for a very different game: speed dating.
On Thursday night Hillel hosted its first speed dating night - complete with candlelit tables and soft background music - to provide Jewish students an alternative forum to find their match.
The majority of the participants were men, so women had a decided advantage with a ratio of eight girls and 22 guys. Although most seemed content to simply have fun and meet new people, many said that their parents were hoping the opportunity would be more than just a platonic evening.
"My dad gives me the, 'marry a non-Jew and you'll spontaneously combust' speech every couple of weeks," sophomore Tuvia Dulin said.
Junior Rebecca Sanfield, one of the event's organizers, said that Hillel realized a Jewish dating night would be popular after Hillel's Colonial Kosher Cafe ran a survey asking students about their thoughts on campus activities.
"Speed dating is really popular in the Jewish community," Sanfield said.
Sophomore Matt Seitman said that because the Jewish community is so small, intermarriage can be a major concern for some.
"Once you get into the Conservative and Orthodox communities, there's a definite push for Jews to marry other Jews," Seitman said.
Sophomore Will Gotkin expressed similar concerns. "If I don't marry Jewish, I know my kids won't be (raised Jewish)."
For speed-dating participant and junior Evan Garcia, the Hillel program was simply an opportunity he could not miss after seeing the movie "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," in which the main characters attend a similar event.
"I don't think faith should be an issue," Garcia said. "I think you actually learn more if you date someone outside your religion."
Starting Feb. 5, the Newman Catholic Student Center will host weekly conversationgs to discuss Christian dating. The talks will give students an opportunity to discuss dating in a group setting, said Alecia Maniatis, Newman Center's campus minister.
Andy Bergbauer, the student coordinator of the Newman Center, said religion could act as a springboard into a meaningful relationship.
"I think the common feeling is . it would be nice to date someone within your faith because it's something in common with that person," Bergbauer said.
Although the Muslim Student Association does not sponsor a similar event, that does not mean that the group's participants are not concerned about inter-religious dating.
Saif Inam, the vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said that within his circle of friends intermarriage is a concern.
"They believe religion is a way of life, so . it's a big factor."