Who would be brash enough to host a Bernie Madoff Appreciation Dinner? The members of Friday Night Lights, a group founded by Tobias S. Stein ’11 to enliven the celebration of Judaism, did just that.
“The people who we are looking to come to our events are the sort of people who would think that was funny,” Stein says. “We try to be funny, and clever, and creative.”
Although the organization is now affiliated with Harvard Hillel, it began independently in November 2007 when a group of freshmen decided that Harvard needed a less traditional way for Jewish students to come together.
“The way that they have Shabbat dinners at Hillel wasn’t really doing it for me,” says Stein, who is also on The Crimson’s Business Board. “We wanted to host our own thing and try our hand at it.”
While in some respects, the independence of Friday Night Lights could be viewed as a criticism of Hillel, Rebecca D. Gillette ’10, Hillel’s Undergraduate President, doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s a really cool alternative route of reaching people...who maybe aren’t naturally brought into Hillel,” Gillette says.
According to Gillete, Hillel regularly hosts between 150 and 200 people at its Shabbat dinners, but Stein estimates that Friday Night Lights consistently hosts 50 or more students. Non-Jews are also welcome and members are encouraged to bring their friends and blockmates.
“The average member is someone who is going to come to dinner before they go out,” Stein says.
But not everyone is buying in. For example, Jordan D. Feldman ’11 claims he would only attend if his “friends were on board.”
But Stein hesitates to say that Friday Night Lights attracts “cooler” members than Hillel, instead choosing to describe it as a distinct niche.
“It’s a different crowd, definitely,” he admits.