It’s 6 p.m. on Friday. On the second floor of Gabelli Hall in the kosher kitchen, a few students finish up the home cooked meal it was their turn to prepare. The rest of the students and a rabbi from a local Hebrew school talk and laugh as they wait to eat—friends joining together to celebrate on Shabbat, Judaism’s day of rest.
Over dinner, the group of students in attendance (usually about 20 to 25) discuss a passage of the Torah, recite prayers and drink wine and eat challah (a fluffy, braided bread baked specifically for the Jewish Sabbath) as part of the ceremony on Shabbat.
“[Our celebration] is not super traditional,” Hannah Weisenberg, MCAS '18, explains. “Technically, Shabbat should be celebrated precisely at sundown and no one would use technology from that point until sundown on Saturday.”
Weisenberg is a board member of Boston College’s "Hillel," a group that “helps to serve the social, cultural and religious needs of Jewish students and to enrich campus culture for all.” Hillel organizes events throughout the year to celebrate Jewish holidays and to build a Jewish community on campus.
The group holds services in BC’s Multi-Faith Center to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Hillel also hosts an event called Schmooze with Jews in which Jewish faculty members and Jewish students spend a few hours chatting.
Most recently, Hillel organized its Annual Hanukkah Party; the event was held on Friday, Dec. 4 from 6-8 p.m. in the Faculty Dining Hall. “One professor made a cardboard dreidel costume,” Weisenberg laughs as she recalls the event. “We all took turns trying it on.”
Weisenberg expresses her gratitude for being a part of the Hillel community, especially during Jewish holidays when distance makes it impossible for her to celebrate with her family in California. “Judaism is so much more than a religion,” she says. “It’s a way of living and a culture. The Jewish culture is what brings us together.”
Danit Lieberman, CSOM '18, also a board member of Hillel, reiterates similar sentiments about the Jewish community she has found through the group: “There’s a saying in the group that you get more Jewish at BC,” she laughs. “At home, with your family, you take it for granted, but being Jewish at a Catholic university reminds you how important the culture and traditions are. You realize that Jewish traditions really bind you together as a community.”
Both Lieberman and Weisenberg urge other students of all religions to attend Hillel’s events to gain exposure to the community with which they identify. By attending the group’s events, Jewish and non-Jewish students can come together and develop a fuller understanding of BC’s culture as a whole.
The duo invites any and all BC students interested in a home-cooked meal and insight into Jewish culture to the second floor of Gabelli at 6 p.m. on Friday nights next semester.
Hillel will begin hosting weekly Shabbat dinners again in January.