Over 1,500 members of the Cornell community rang in the Sabbath with challah bread and sanctified grape juice on Friday at Hillel’s fifth annual Shabbat 1,000 dinner in Barton Hall. While the group hosts weekly Shabbat dinners, Shabbat 1,000 is the largest of the year for Hillel, the umbrella organization for Jewish clubs and activities on campus.
“The goal of the program is to inform Jewish students of what’s open to them, and for non-Jewish students, to inform them of our religion,” said Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Hillel. “Shabbat 1,000 really epitomizes the energy of Jewish life at Cornell. When so many people from so many different backgrounds come together as Cornellians, it makes for a very special evening.”
The name, Shabbat 1,000, is rooted back to the event’s inception five years, when the initial goal was to attract 1,000 diners. However, the dinner has grown since 2003, and on Friday there were 150 tables to accommodate the expected 1,500 guests.
The Student Steering Committee was formed last spring, where student organizers discussed the logistics of the program, as well as how to publicize it.
In addition to attracting more attendees, this year the event’s organizers aimed to instill more cultural significance.
“This year, we decided to add more depth and meaning. We’ve moved the stage to the center room, so the speakers are the center of attention,” said Arielle Angell ’11, a member of the Student Steering Committee. “One of our major goals is to showcase the vibrancy and the strength of the Jewish community here at Cornell.”
The Student Steering Committee advertised the event across campus with posters and announcements.
“The groundwork has been laid from previous events,” said Speizer. “Word of mouth has been the best way [to advertise.]”
The dinner was preceded by a Jewish Club exposition, where attendees had the chance to learn about various activities the organization has to offer on campus. After the club exposition, attendees filed into Barton, which was transformed into a dining hall, each table replete with kosher grape juice and challah bread.
Diners sat where they pleased and table leaders led discussions. Speaking center stage before the dinner was Rosenthal, who welcomed the diners and introduced several speakers, including Amy Pearlman ’09, president of Hillel. Pearlman urged diners to take advantage of all Hillel has to offer.
“Use Hillel as a springboard to challenge your Jewish identity … Do not throw away the most important, sacred, valuable asset you will own here at Cornell by missing out on the many chances to put yourself in the embrace of a large community that will help you expand the meaning of life,” Pearlman said.
The event was made possible by Cheryl and David Einhorn ’91, who were present at the dinner and lit the traditional Shabbat candles. The Einhorn’s supported the dinner through the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, which sponsors numerous other non-profit events nationwide each year.
According to the Einhorns, Rosenthal approached the couple with the idea for Shabbat 1,000 five years ago, after Cornell students expressed interest in expanding Cornell’s outreach.
“It’s gotten better every year,” C. Einhorn said. “You can see that Hillel is growing along with this event.”
The message of unity and strength in Jewish culture was clear as everyone went silent for the reciting of the Kiddush over grape juice.
“It’s an umbrella organization, so there are so many cool things for everyone,” said Ben Wegener ’12, a table leader and first-time Shabbat 1,000 diner.
Erica Weitzner ’10 reiterated the opportunities within Hillel.
“It’s really fun to get involved with Hillel. It’s not as overbearing as many freshmen think it is,” Weitzner said. “It can be as religious as you want it to be.”