2 Students reflect on weekly Shabbat dinners with JSA

Courtesy of Aviv Hod

Courtesy of Aviv Hod http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Challah_Bread_Six_Braid_1.JPG

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Sarah Friedman
Sarah Friedman

“Every Friday since my freshman year, I head to Washington University for Shabbat. I never thought that these dinners would become such a huge part of my life. When I first came to SLU, I expected that while at a Jesuit university, Judaism would take a back seat in my life. However, these weekly meals have become something I look forward to.

I had no idea how difficult adjusting to a school with only a handful of other Jews would be. Sometimes I felt like I was from a different planet. The Jewish Student Association has become my family here on campus, and by extension, the individuals at Washington University who we celebrate with every Friday have become my extended family.

To clarify, Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Friday nights are typically celebrated in one’s home with a ritual candle lighting, ceremonial wine, braided egg bread called challah and some sort of meal. Back home in Arizona, my family celebrated Shabbat on Fridays so that we knew that for one night a week we would be together. Now that I am in college, I celebrate Shabbat with a different kind of family.

When I was little, my Hebrew teacher taught us a song called “Wherever You Go.” One of the repeating lines in the chorus is, “Amsterdam, Disneyland, Tel Aviv, oh they’re miles apart, but when we light the candles on Sabbath eve, we share in a prayer in each one of our hearts.” These words from this children’s song perfectly sum up my experiences celebrating Shabbat in St. Louis.

Every time I go to Shabbat dinner, I am reminded that no matter where I am, and no matter how far I am from my family, I am forming a new family, and my Jewish roots will keep me connected to all of the people that I love, and introduce me to new and wonderful people along the way. ”

Alexandra Baines
Alexandra Baines

“What Shabbat dinner represents to me is community. Every Friday, it is a chance to bring my faith and culture to the home, even when it isn’t my own home. Being in a comfortable environment where I can reflect, laugh, eat and be with others who are Jewish is a rarity. Already having the feeling that I am the odd fish out in the big pond, being Jewish at a Catholic and Jesuit University, it can be an overwhelming feeling at times. Friday nights at Shabbat dinner is where I feel comfort among people like me.

The religious part of the Sabbath is not even the most important to me. The element I appreciate and cherish most is the kinship of our culturally Jewish tie that brings us together. While I don’t observe Shabbos traditionally like some do, refraining from the use of technology or driving, I take Shabbos to reflect on the week past, to relax and enjoy the little things in life. Even not using my phone during dinner for a couple hours is a breath of fresh air in an overly connected world. I crave the times where I can be unattainable, when I’m usually reachable at the click of a button. Obviously food is a big part of Shabbat dinner. (If I’m being honest, though, my favorite part of Shabbos is challah, a type of braided egg bread.)

The ritualistic nature of the evening, the singing and the hand washing has special meaning to me because I worry about nothing else but where I am and who I’m with. At Shabbat dinner every other care and concern in my world can wait a few hours. Some people feel that it is an obligation, a chore, but I look forward to Shabbat dinner every week.

I could say that I feel a connection with God at Shabbos and that I reflect on my faith, but I wouldn’t be being completely honest. It is a time to reflect on my beliefs, but that is only part of it. Shabbos, to me, means the end of one week and the commencement of another. The symbolism of that cyclical new beginning gives me hope every week that I can improve myself and each day is a new opportunity and a new day to be happy for. “