The GW Jewish Student Association hosted more than 200 guests at the first Gala Shabbat celebration in the Marvin Center Ballroom Friday in honor of the first night of Hanukkah.
Shabbat is the Jewish equivalent to the Christian Sabbath and ceremonies are held every Friday at Hillel, but the occurrence of these two holidays in one makes this night extra special, said Karen Krantweiss, Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow.
I’ve been going to Shabbat since I was a little boy, President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said in brief remarks before the event.
Trachtenberg, who later this month will be visiting Egypt as a guest of President Hosni Mubarak, said he was proud of the nearly 20 different religions represented on campus.
Guests chose between the Reform, Conservative or Orthodox Hanukkah services provided before dinner.
After services, the Ballroom was filled with a holiday atmosphere as the guests awaited dinner and sang Shalom Aleikhem. The crowd, led by sophomore Lauren Schach participated in the ritualistic washing of hands and recited Hamotzi, a blessing over the bread. A traditional Jewish Shabbat/Hanukkah meal was served.
Event participants reflected on the future of the Jewish organization that hosted the historic occasion.
This is a great opportunity for the Jewish community to see the incredible potential that JSA holds for the new millennium, said incoming JSA President Sam Caplan. It’s nice to see 200 Jewish students coming together and schmoozing while celebrating Hanukkah and the Shabbat.
Dinner was followed by singing of a few holiday favorites, including the staple The Dreidel Song.
The evening concluded with a performance by comedian Ellen Steigman, who has performed at Hillels and nightclubs across the country.
Some students who are not Jewish attended the event.
Holidays aren’t about being Jewish, said freshman Francoise Gallete. They’re about community and family.
Some participants said they enjoyed the eclectic mix.
I’m glad that all people of all faiths are here, said freshman Evan Dornbush, who brought along his non-Jewish roommate.
Senior Jeff Brown, the coordinator for Friday’s celebration, said the JSA surpassed the attendance goal for Shabbat. Event organizers wanted to boost the attendance for weekly Shabbat festivities Friday nights at Hillel.
The Shabbat is usually small (about 60 to 80 students, according to Krantweiss), junior Jason Lieberman said. It’s great to see so many people take part in something that will build community.Sophomore Courtney From called the scene of about 200 people amazing.
It gives me such a good feeling inside that Jews can come together and have fun, From said.
Participants said they did not feel the celebration deviated much from the normal course of Hillel events.
It’s just Shabbat with more people and latkes (potato pancakes), freshman Dave Feldman said.