Blowout Crowd at Shabbat Dinner

On Friday night, hundreds of students and faculty members were lined up outside of the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC) waiting to get in. But they weren’t there to work out.

This year, Harvard Hillel and Chabad at Harvard hosted the largest Shabbat 1000 to date at the College, with 700 Harvard affiliates in attendance.

“Having this one combined blowout dinner gets both sides of the Jewish community at Harvard involved,” said Harvard Hillel President Sarah B. Joselow ’10, who is also a Crimson design editor. “The whole community is not together on a regular Friday dinner.”

First held at Harvard in Annenberg in 2006, the event was moved to the basketball courts of the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC) this year to allow for 100 more guests. Of the 700 attendees this year, around 450 were undergrads, according to Rebecca M. Rohr ’08, a co-chair of the event.

Throughout the evening, guests munched on challah, gefilte fish, and kugel.

Sheets of paper on each table listed Hebrew blessings spelled phonetically in English.

Joshua A. Kipnees ’06 said that the event showed how inclusive the Jewish community at Harvard is of people of different backgrounds.

“People often have a perception that Jews go off and do their own thing,” said Kipnees, a second-year student at the Law School. “I think this indicated to everyone how open the Jewish community at Harvard is to having other people enjoy their holidays.”

Co-director of Chabad at Harvard Elkie Zarchi said that the event was important because it provided a sense of community for students away from home.

“Traditionally, Shabbat dinners are celebrated with family,” Zarchi wrote in an e-mailed statement. “Here at Harvard, students are away from their families, but we would like everyone to feel a part of the extended family that is the Harvard Jewish community.”

While the MAC allowed for more people, its lack of a kitchen made it difficult to the keep the transported food hot.

But attendees said this did not take away from the evening.

“I don’t think anyone came for the food,” Rohr said. “But I think in terms of the overall goal and feeling of the event, it went really well.”

Joselow also said that the dinner was intended to appeal to students who may not regularly celebrate Shabbat.

“We were trying to engage Jewish students in an aspect of Jewish life that they might not otherwise be involved in,” Joselow said.

Professor Tal D. Ben-Shahar, professor of the popular class Psychology 1504: “Positive Psychology,” gave the evening’s opening remarks.

“A lot of what he talks about in Positive Psych and the spirit of Shabbat are similar,” Rohr said. “Taking time out to be with friends and family, to reflect.”

—Staff writer Rachel A. Stark can be reached at rstark@fas.harvard.edu.