With an eye toward strategic program development, and on behalf of the Department of Jewish Student Life, the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning
, we have collected resources we anticipate will be helpful as you begin your semester. This first installment focuses on Shabbat programming.
The great Zionist thinker and ideologue Ahad Ha'am
is quoted as saying, "More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews." In Hillel language, we might say, that Friday night dinner is probably the most successful Hillel program of all time. There is community. There is warmth. There is an expectation of Jewish song and ritual, and there is room for creativity.
Even though "Shabbat happens" irrespective of what we do, our tradition requires that we prepare for Shabbat. Preparing means seeing Shabbat as a weekly opportunity, a sacred task that introduces the uninitiated to the warmth and wonder of Jewish community, and reminds those who have forgotten that Jewish life provides the warmth of home away from home.
Shabbat dinner is a showcase for core Jewish values. Most participants in a Friday night experience would be bewildered and disappointed if Shalom Aleichem
were omitted from the experience. There is an expectation that some Jewish words be spoken. Explanations and interpretations of all rituals are appreciated and not perceived as "heavy" or beyond what participants may expect. In other words, Shabbat dinner is one context where Jewish content is expected by the participants. It is therefore critical that we exploit these moments of expectation with warmth, with creativity, and with sensitivity.
Even though the average participant on a birthright israel experience might say that they identify with Jewish culture and not Jewish religion - often the first thing a student does upon return from Israel is to show up at Hillel on Friday night. The culture with which they want to connect is intertwined with the religion they are reluctant to claim. This is what Ahad Ha'am meant when he said:, "More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews."
What follows are learnings, tips, links, and attachments to be used as resources for your Shabbat programs:
Triggering Sacred Conversations at the Shabbat Table: A Study of Five Ancient Voices and How to Talk About Them.
Over the Shabbat meal, learn how to have an encounter with a Jewish voice from the past. Create a conversation between you, your friends and the one for whom only words remain. Creating Jewish Encounters on Shabbat >>
For more information and new ideas for learning about Shabbat, contact Rabbi Avi Weinstein, Director Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning.
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Preparing for Shabbat
How do we think about preparing students and our communities for Shabbat? Preparations can begin earlier in the week - baking challah, a "taste of Shabbat" table in the Union, or Shabbat candle making in the residence halls. Consider setting up a "Shabbat Space" on campus, complete with stress balls, sunglasses, relaxing music, lawn chairs, candles, and pillows. Have students take off their backpacks and cover their watches with tape so that can "forget" about time.
Preparing is also about the ambiance created when students arrive for services and/or dinner. Is the space you're using for your programs clean? Does it smell good? Are there students to welcome the newcomers? Are there magazines or newspapers to read for the students who are uncomfortable being in unfamiliar groups? Do the tables look festive? Small things, like colored napkins or cups can make your Shabbat dinner or lunch look more festive than your regular Tuesday night dinners.
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Making Shabbat Welcoming
Shabbat is a time we relax, to sing, dance, learn, and eat. Students who grew up celebrating Shabbat, at home, with a youth group, or at summer camp, walk into Hillel with an expectation of the structure and flow of Shabbat. Students for whom Shabbat is a new idea may walk into Hillel and be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar singing, praying, and ritual.
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- If there is more than one minyan at your Hillel, bring the community together before services for candle lighting, to hear community announcements, teach and sing a niggun to welcome Shabbat or hear a d'var torah. This will give you a natural opportunity to move people into the individual services or dinner.
- Table tents are a great way to informally educate students about Shabbat and her rituals. Make sure there are explanations, translations and transliterations for any table rituals and the same at your washing stations. If you're using Shabbat Notes, announce the page numbers for the various steps.
- To encourage conversations during dinner, have a fishbowl in the center of each table with different questions (or quotes) on slips of paper. The topics can be about Judaism, current events, or even campus life. Or have a progressive dinner, where participants switch tables for each course and conversation topic.
- If your students sing after dinner, don't forget to have song sheets, (with translations and transliterations), that your song leaders use to teach from and call out paragraph or page numbers.
birthright israel Participants and Shabbat
You may see a few new faces at Shabbat this semester - your birthright participants. When you welcome them back, introduce them to the rest of your Shabbat participants - other students may have questions about going on birthright in the spring! Invite them to say a few words about their experiences at dinner, (don't serve shnitzel!), or ask them to bring their pictures for a post-dinner program. Consider giving your birthright participants supplies to host their own Shabbat dinners (Shabbat in a box/bag). If you sense the right interest from your students, consider asking them to help plan or host an Israeli themed Shabbat dinner. Your students may also have been on several different busses, campus based, outdoor adventure, photography etc., and may not know each other - don't forget to introduced them to each other!
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Top Five Tips for Making Shabbat an Engaging Experience
5. Get Shabbat out of Hillel - Arrange Shabbat dinners in residence hall lounges, fraternity and sorority houses, student and faculty houses, and local coffeehouses.[Back to the top]
4. Give Shabbat high visibility:
3. Work with partners - The National Jewish Outreach Project's Shabbat Across America has resources for campuses and communities to make certain that Jews across North America are invited to celebrate Shabbat. Shabbat dinners can take place in residence halls, faculty home etc. For more information, go to www.njop.org or call Dossie Fuchs at 800-448-6724.
- Aim high! Plan a Shabbat 2003 … for 2003 students. Involve students in all aspects of the experience and market it as THE place to be on Friday night.
- Create Themed Shabbats for services, dinner and onegs - Environmentalism, Jewish life in China (Mexico, Israel, Yemen etc.)
2. Understand the needs of your students
Bonus Tip - Create a warm and welcoming environment
- Plan quick Shabbat experiences in parking lots as commuter students return home for the weekend
- Coordinate a progressive Shabbat dinner between fraternity and sorority houses or graduate students' apartments
1. Have fun doing it! The more you enjoy the experience, open yourself to the students that attend, and involve them in being part of the community, the more they will feel welcomed and engaged!
- Provide transliteration and explanation of the service and meal rituals
- Use secular melodies to help students be more familiar with the tunes
- Have students welcoming peers as they come into the service or building. Orient new students and introduce them to 'regulars'
Campus to Campus: Creative Shabbat Programming Ideas
A wonderful thing that we realize each year at the Professional Staff Conference is how productive it is to share program ideas, best practices, challenges and successes with our colleagues. What follows are campus Shabbat programs that were discovered during courses at Professional Staff Conference.
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- At Broward and Palm Beach County Hillel, a multi-campus Hillel spread over 75 miles of South Florida, Shabbat programming is one of their primary engagement tools. It's interactive, thematic, and very creative.The two most popular programs among their students are: Mu-Shu Shabbat, complete with Jewish fortune cookies, and MamaMia Shabbat, using Jewish pasta where the different shapes represent a different Jewish topic each individual needs to discuss at the dinner table.
- Washington University in St. Louis has three innovative Shabbat strategies:
- Several times during the year, students can sign up Shabbat in a Box. This provides them with wine, challah, candles and information on creating their own Shabbat experience. The Greek students, supported by the JCSC fellow, are usually responsible for this project.
- Shabbat on the "40" is a themed Friday night experience in the underclassmen residence halls. Each Shabbat dinner/oneg is themed, and this semester, the Washington University Solidarity for Israel group is sponsoring the evening, complete with Aryeh Ben David from the Pardes Institute teaching about Israel. Services are held in different (non-Hillel) locations on campus, and the dinner and oneg are held in the residence halls.
- On occasional Shabbatot, different Jewish student groups (AEPi, Freshman Council) will sponsor a Shabbat - from giving the d'var torah, to table tents, to the oneg. This is a great way to integrate student groups into programming outside their primary focus!
- Hillel at The George Washington University's Shabbat programming does not end with Birkat Hamazon, but continues twice each month with what has become known as P.S. P.S. stands for Pe'ulat Shabbat (Shabbat Activity) or Post Shabbat. Programs vary from the university a capella group and student-written parodies to text studies and speakers. The program began as a way to enhance the Shabbat atmosphere and serve the needs of the Shabbat observant community, and has grown into a means for engaging students with diverse interests. P.S. programs are often suggested and implemented by students and student groups that do not traditionally attend Friday evening programming but want to get their message out to this large audience.
- West Point Hillel at the United States Military Academy hosted students from around the Northeast for a Jewish Warrior Weekend. The purpose of this weekend was to imbue civilian Jewish college students with a sense of their American Jewish military heritage, while at the same time providing both Jewish and non-Jewish cadets with an opportunity to immerse themselves in Jewish culture. The weekend consisted of Shabbat meals and services, military and non-military speakers, and an opportunity to learn about life as a Jewish cadet.
Incorporating Israel Education Month into Shabbat
Israel Education Month begins Jan. 15th and runs through Feb. 15th, and is sponsored by Hillel, United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Consider using the time and space created by Shabbat to educate students about the important social service organizations in Israel. Spread the word about the work they do and during the week help students raise funds on their behalf. Friendship's Way, the Jewish-Arab Association for the Child and Family, Shalva and SELAH are just three of the many community service organizations that exist in Israel.
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Creating Change ($) for Shabbat
In his fundraising efforts, Saul Perlmutter at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst created an annual giving category, starting at $180, to sponsor Shabbat evening programming and meals. Individuals who gave in this category were listed in the program calendar as Shabbat dinner sponsors. Each week, a student who attended Shabbat dinner would write a personal thank you letter to the sponsor of that week's dinner. This personalized attention kept the gifts coming, and as the gifts kept coming, so did the students. Being able to offer free Shabbat dinners along with multiple service options, led to Hillel more than tripling their Shabbat dinner attendance over the past three years.
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(compiled by Rabbi Avi Weinstein)
Consider using these on table tents for discussion topics:
- Remember the Sabbath to hallow it. (Exodus 20:8)
- And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it for on it He rested from all his work that He created by doing. (Genesis 2:3)
- Know that the essence of the stars and planets, and the completeness of Tzedaka only happens on Shabbat. Thus it is written: "A sunny Shabbat day is Tzedaka for the poor." (Talmud, Ta'anit 8b)
- This means that Tzedaka only has complete light through the light of Shabbat, and through the Shabbat light it shines like the sun. (Rebbe Nachman of Braslav)
- Every person must carry the holiness of Shabbat to hallow the other days of the week. (Rebbe Nachman of Braslav)
- If you don't put in the effort the day before, what are you going to eat on Shabbat? (Talmud Avodah Zarah 3a)
- Shabbat said before the Holy One: Every day was given a partner, but You did not give me one. The Holy One answered: Your partner is the community of Israel. And when Israel stands on Mount Sinai, the Holy One will say, "Remember the Sabbath to hallow it." (Exodus 20:8)
- Remember that I said to Shabbat that the community of Israel is your partner. (Midrash Genesis Rabba Parsha 11)
- It was said of Shammai, the elder that all his days he would eat in order to honor Shabbat. If he would find a nice calf he would say, "This will be for Shabbat." If he found one that was nicer, he would set aside the second one and then eat the first one. (Talmud, Beitza 16b)
- Three things give insight into the (pleasures of the) world to come: Shabbat, the sun, and bodily functions.The Holy One said to Israel: A good gift have I for Israel and Shabbat is her name. Go and tell them. (Talmud, Shabbat 10b)
- There was a Monarch who prepared a special wedding canopy. It was intricately carved and adorned; the only thing missing was the bride. So, too the world was created intricately and majestically, but the only thing missing was Shabbat. (Midrash Genesis Rabba Chapter 10)
- Shabbat brings every creature back to its roots which is the will of God. (Sefat Emet, Famous Hasidic master, on the Torah)
- Shabbat is called shalom. (Zohar)
- One who celebrates Shabbat will be given an inheritance without, indeed beyond, limitation. (Talmud, Shabbat 118a)
- Resh Lakish said that on Shabbat Eve one is given an extra soul, and when Shabbat leaves, it is taken from him. (Talmud, Beitza 16a)
- It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel. (Exodus 30:17)