Hillel Shabbatot are lively and celebratory.
A Hillel Shabbat can be anything from meditation to Moroccan, interfaith to Indian, community-wide to cancer awareness. Shabbat events are held on a rooftop in the center of St. Petersburg, Russia, and in the homes of Board members on the shores of the Pacific. They remember fallen heroes and celebrate spiritual renewal.
Many Hillels feature large-scale annual Shabbat meals that bring together up to 1,000 members of the campus community for a festive event. At the opposite side of the spectrum, Hillels also provide "Shabbat Kits" that enable students to create meals in their own residences, apartments and fraternity/sorority houses.
Below are a few innovative ideas to brighten your own Shabbat.
"Martin Luther King Shabbat is co-sponsored with Pitt's Black Action Society and is designed to be a learning opportunity where students from both communities can come together and learn about the various roles each community played in the Civil Rights era. The dvar Torah is used as a vehihle to relate to this period in history and all the tables are filled with information about Civil Rights. A guest speaker is invited to illuminate students after dinner at a special Oneg Shabbat on what happened and why it is still relevant today."
Aaron Weil, Executive Director
Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh
"Over 120 students took part in a special Martin Luther King celebration Shabbat in collaboration with the Black Student Assembly, featuring a performance by our campus Gospel choir (with both Jewish and black students), and remarks by a Jewish faculty member who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights era."
Michael Jeser, Allen & Ruth Ziegler Executive Director
University of Southern California Hillel
"At Ryerson University in Toronto, we had a multi-faith Shabbat dinner. It was hosted by the president of the university and included senior administrators, Jewish and non-Jewish faculty, members of the Board of Governors, members of different faith-based student groups and, of course, Hillel students. We joined together for an enjoyable Shabbat dinner where Shabbat rituals were explained and each table was filled with interesting conversation about school, life, religion and values."
Elise Loterman, Programme Associate
Puerto Rican and Jewish students prepare Shabbat together.
"We had a Puerto Rican Shabbat at Wellesley College. Students from Mezcla, the Latina student group, and Hillel students spoke about what foods they would be able to cook for Shabbat that would be Puerto Rican-style and kosher. Students went shopping together, cooked Shabbat dinner together, shared Shabbat with prayers in Spanish, Hebrew and English and shared stories of their cultural backgrounds while eating the dinner they had made together. This came about because Jewish and Latina students had participated in a community service Alternative Service Break to Puerto Rico. The connection between the groups has enabled students to learn more about each other, their ethnic identity and cultural similarities."
Patti Sheinman, Wellesley College Hillel Director
Associate Director, Hillel Council of New England
Social Justice Shabbatot
"At the University of Washington Hillel we will join communities around the world in speaking out against human trafficking on Freedom Shabbat, April 22-23, during Passover. We were once slaves in Egypt and we have never stopped fighting for our own freedom and that of others. On Freedom Shabbat we will decry the senseless enslavement of millions across the globe. For more information and resources visit www.freedomshabbat.org."
Robert Beiser, Repair the World Director
University of Washington Hillel
"We hold an annual Sacred Foods and Social Justice Shabbat Weekend to honor mother nature and celebrate her bounties! It's a weekend of events planned around sacred food, all locally sourced, to use Shabbat as a space to focus on sustainability and the environment."
Marshall Einhorn, Executive Director
"For the last five years, every October Trinity College Hillel hosts Pink Shabbat for Breast Cancer Awareness co-sponsored by many student groups. The Shabbat will include a special service and d'var Torah that connects the parasha with the issue of women's health as well as pink-themed foods, like pink challah made by members of a Trinity sorority."
Lisa Kassow, Hillel Director
"Once a month the students at New College of Florida in Sarasota prepare food on Friday afternoon and take it to Five Points Park where they make Shabbat with the homeless. They do all of the blessings and have Shabbat dinner in the park with total strangers. It's very special."
Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Executive Director/Campus Rabbi
Hillels of the Florida Suncoast
"Hillel at Loyola's Eco-Shabbat dinner, co-sponsored with the Student Environ- mental Alliance, created a version of Hazon's 'Food for Thought' as a text read during the dinner."
Patti Ray, Director
Hillel at Loyola University, Chicago
"University of Vermont Hillel holds a Local Foods Shabbat at Sukkot with a speaker who talks about the intersection of Judaism and environmentalism or the Jewish food movement."
Susan Leff, Executive Director
Hillel at the University of Vermont
AJWS President Ruth Messinger.
"Maryland Hillel will host two different, well- known Jewish leaders for a Shabbat experience: As the keynote speaker to over 100 students who have just returned from six alternative break trips, Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS will speak with Alternative Spring Break alumni and social justice-involved students about the importance of being involved in social justice work. Simultaneously Rabbi Elliot Dorff will speak with the LGBT, Conservative, and other communities regarding his involvement in the Conservative Movement's decision to ordain gay rabbis. Both of these activists will meet with student leaders in intimate settings throughout the evening. Recognizing the diversity of community and the strength of our size, Hillel will reach several hundred Jewish students under one umbrella."
Rabbi Ari Israel, Executive Director
Hillel at the University of Maryland, College Park
"Hillel Montreal shared a Shabbat experience with 220 students and the leader of the official opposition Federal Party, Michael Ignatief of the Liberal Party of Canada."
Jeff Bicher, Director
"We sponsored Shabbat dinners at the homes of local Hillel professionals for a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of universities."
Gary Coleman, Executive Director
Hillel of Cleveland
"We have a very popular Friends and Family Shabbat annually in which students invite their parents, grandparents and siblings or their roommates if their family can't come. We have had family fly in from as far away as Dallas."
Jackie Tolley, Director
Hillel of San Diego at SDSU
"In the Portland area, we had seven donors host students in their homes for dinner and then joined together as a community at local synagogue together for services."
Rachel Hall, Director
PDXHillel (Portland, Oregon)
"At Tufts, we recently did Shabbat 500 where we had more than 500 students, alumni, faculty and staff celebrate Shabbat all over campus. The university president gave the d'var Torah in the Conservative service."
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit, Neubauer Executive Director
"A new, informative and impactful Shabbat experience at Minnesota included several of our students of Sephardic descent leading services, incorporating new tunes and a d'var Torah that related to the students' lives and family histories as Sephardic Jews in America, followed by a delicious dinner with family recipes representing this often-overlooked segment of our population."
Sarah Routman, Executive Director
Hillel at the University of Minnesota
Shalom in Chinese from the Elon Hillel program.
"Elon Hillel sponsors a Chinese Kabbalat Shabbat once each semester. We serve Chinese food, do the blessings in both English and Chinese, and talk about the close connection between Jews and Chinese food."
Nancy Luberoff, Hillel Campus Director
"Trinity College Hillel recently hosted Moroccan Shabbat, led by Trinity's Hebrew instructor who was born in Casablanca and grew up in Israel, in which the dining room of the Hillel House was decorated as a Moroccan tent and students prepared an elegant, authentic, magnificent Moroccan meal for 60 of their peers over two days - in Hebrew."
Lisa Kassow, Hillel Director
"At the University of Rhode Island, our Board member Sam Shamoon helped us to create an Indian and Iraqi Shabbat. His parents grew up in Baghdad and fled to India after the pogroms in Baghdad in 1941. After a delicious homemade Shabbat dinner using Iraqi and Indian recipes, Sam spoke to our students and guests about Jewish life in Baghdad and India."
Amy Olson, Executive Director
University of Rhode Island Hillel
"As part of Israel Awareness Week we honored those soldiers recently fallen or taken captive. Each table was a represented by a soldier's story that was shared aloud by a volunteer from each table. It was moving."
Scott Brockman, Executive Director
Hillel of Broward & Palm Beach
"Our Shabbat to remember Avi Schaefer at Santa Barbara Hillel was an incredibly moving experience for over 220 students and community members. Avi was a young man from our community who was killed by an errant driver after just one semester at Brown University. An immigrant to Israel and a veteran of the Israel Defense Force, during his brief period at Brown he emerged as a powerful student leader and an outspoken advocate for Israel. We wove Avi's story into the d'var Torah and mourners' kaddish at services, spoke about him at kiddush, and over dinner we discussed how we might continue his legacy. Students came away with a stronger connection to Israel, as well as the knowledge that one person can truly make a difference."
Rabbi Evan Goodman, Edgar M. Bronfman Executive Director
Santa Barbara Hillel
"Hillel Montreal, as part of our Holocaust Education Week, had a Survivors' Shabbat dinner for 160 students and 30 Survivors, where our students pledged to never sit idly by."
Jeff Bicher, Executive Director
"Last year, in memory of Kristallnacht, we hosted four Holocaust survivors and their significant others where they shared their stories with a dozen or more students at each table. The survivors brought pictures and mementos to share, and stayed late to mingle with all of the students. Each story was diverse and compelling, and the messages given to students were optimistic and how one can survive in the worst of situations. One of the survivors had lived on his own in the forest from the age of 11 to 13! We then followed up a few months later with a trip to the new Holocaust museum in Skokie. Students told us that these were among the most meaningful experiences of their lives."
Heidi Rattner, Executive Director
"Last weekend we had our first Jerry Minyan, inspired by the music of Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead and the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi."
Keith Dvorchik, Executive Director
University of Florida Hillel
"Pierce & Valley Colleges Hillel sponsored Hippie Shabbat: How the Sixties Influenced Environmentalism, which included a guitar-led creative service, a special Hippie Siddur, popular music and poetry of the 60's and tie-dyed dÃ©cor."
Nomi Gordon, Hillel Director
Pierce & Valley Colleges
"The weekend of March 4-6 Hillel at Ithaca College will host Rabbi Jeff Roth of the Awakened Heart Project who will conduct a Shabbaton meditation retreat for students and members of the Ithaca Jewish community."
Michael Faber, Director & Jewish Chaplain
"In July, we went to the seashore and we danced in two big circles before we read the blessings for Shabbat. It was like a mystical celebration."
Alena Andronatiy, Director
"We do a sign language Shabbat in conjunction with Deaf Studies each year. Students that are deaf studies majors teach the signs for the Jewish blessings and the services are interpreted. We invite members of the deaf community to join us."
Ken Krivitzky, Executive Director
"Middlebury College Hillel held its first College Student B'nai Mitzvah Shabbat Service this year, with 5 students who never had a b'nai mitzvah, who completed a peer-led study program and participated in the service with an aliya l'Torah and d'var Torah. There wasn't a dry eye in the house!"
Rabbi Ira Schiffer, Associate Chaplain/Hillel Advisor
"Hillels of Westchester held an Artist Shabbat surrounded with sculpture by an Israeli artist and services in the college art gallery."
Saul Spangenberg, Executive Director
Hillels of Westchester
"University of Kansas Hillel offers Shabbat 'Happy Hours' on Friday afternoons from 4-6 p.m. Although no alcohol is served, there are plenty of appetizers donated by local restaurants. Students come and go as part of the open house format. Shabbat berachot are recited at 5 p.m."
Jay Lewis, Executive Director
"Queens College Hillel hosted its first Chocolate Shabbat in honor of chocolate month. Over 325 students attended a traditional Shabbat dinner with sumptuous chocolate desserts, featuring chocolate fondue with strawberry's pineapple melons and chocolate."
Rabbi Moshe Shur, Executive Director
Queens College Hillel
"We had a Shabbaton last year with Chaplain Colonel Mitch Ackerson, Deputy Command Chaplain of the 311th Signal Command, one of the highest ranking rabbis in the armed forces and invited the ROTC cadets on campus. He shared his experiences in Iran and Afghanistan as well as some of the high points and challenges he experienced as a Jew and a rabbi in the military."
Rabbi Michelle Fisher, Executive Director
"University of Illinois Chicago students developed Mystery Shabbat around the theme of the game of Clue. The menu included items that coordinated with the characters (Mustard Chicken, Plum Pie, etc.) and specific students came dressed as each character and circulated from table to table with their own narratives and clues to solve the 'murder.' Tables competed to identify who the murderer was and instrument of the crime."
Marla Baker, Director
University of Illinois, Chicago
"At Stony Brook, we hosted a Tailgate Kiddush for students, parents, and alumni to mingle during Homecoming Weekend. The kiddush is held after Shabbat morning services behind our building which faces the football stadium."
Rabbi Joseph S. Topek, Director,
Hillel at Stony Brook University
"We held a Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony on the roof in the very center of St. Petersburg, with a beautiful view and atmosphere. Unfortunately, the space was limited and we could only hold 50 students so many had to be turned away."
Irina Pastuhova, Director
St. Petersburg Hillel
"At the University of Washington, we had a drum circle Shabbat that juxtaposed drumming with the kabbalat Shabbat and maariv liturgy."
Jeremy Brochin, Acting Director
University of Washington Hillel