The Jewish Student Union of Cornell organized a mass Shabbat dinner Friday evening at Barton Hall with the official count reaching over 1,100 guests. President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 was in attendance as well, reciting and leading the blessing over the wine at the beginning of the meal.
“We were completely blown away by the response from the community,” said Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Cornell Hillel. “This was the biggest Jewish event ever at Cornell. No one could be more proud than I am right now.”
The idea for a large-scale dinner was greatly encouraged by David ’91 and Cheryl Einhorn ’91, who donated money to Hillel to pay for the food. According to Malka Benjamin ’07, co-vice chair of creative development for the Jewish Student Union, planning for the event started at the end of spring semester.
Although the attendees were predominantly Jewish, many other groups from around the Cornell campus were represented as well.
“It was so amazing to see such a wide turnout from the Jewish community as well as the Christian and Muslim communities,” said Ben Towbin ’06, vice-chair of JSU.
Various Cornell staff members as well as graduate students were also present. According to the Hillel website, approximately 3,500 Jews live on campus; 3,000 of those are undergraduates. There are over 25 Jewish organizations run entirely by Cornell students.
Unlike other Hillel events, “Shabbat 1000 was put together as a result of work done by all of the Jewish groups on campus and was truly a team effort,” Benjamin said.
With the final count topping off at 847 RSVPs, the Hillel executive board was still secure that they would reach the goal of hosting 1,000 guests.
“Usually at our regular Shabbat dinners, about half the people who show up didn’t reserve a spot,” said Sheryl Gordon ’07, co-vice chair of creative development, “so we were very confident that we would reach 1,000.”
According to Benjamin, who was in close contact with the staff of 104 West, the Kosher dining hall on campus, actual preparation for the event started on Monday of last week. Five hundred pounds of chicken, 250 pounds of noodle kugel, 200 pounds of carrots, 100 large challah loaves and 100 smaller challah rolls were prepared. Set-up that day started at noon with the assembling of one hundred tables. No sound system was used for the event due to Shabbat observances.
“This is just a wonderful opportunity to showcase Hillel and to interest students who don’t usually attend our events,” Benjamin said. “It’s a great way for people to learn about Shabbat and for us to reach out to the entire community.” Adding that Hillel has Shabbat dinners every Friday night, Benjamin was hopeful that this event would attract more people to attend every week.
“We figured that people might feel intimidated by specific events. This way, they could bring all their friends and just feel more comfortable,” Gordon said.
Starting at 8:15 p.m., the dinner lasted until 10 p.m., ending with various outburts of song from HIllel members.
“Things could not have gone smoother. Everything just went so well and the food was great,” Benjamin said.
Other future Hillel events include apple picking, a trip to a Yankees game and a “Jews on Ice” program. The events are all scheduled for later this semester.
Archived article by Emily Gordon