Shabbat 250: Shabbat Dinner For Hundreds Of Jews On Campus

shabbat 250On April 19th, history was made at the University of Minnesota. At the university’s Chabad House, 250 Jewish students came together to celebrate a Shabbat dinner. According to Rabbi Yitzy Steiner, Director of the Chabad center on campus, this was the largest Jewish event to take place at U of M. 
A diverse group of students attended, from different denominations, as well a number of faculty and other guests.
The motivation behind this event was to celebrate Jewish pride. “That hundreds of Jewish students on campus can get together in unity and celebrate their Judaism and commemorate the Shabbat, that’s tremendous,” said Steiner. 
Most of the food was prepared by Rabbi Steiner’s wife (and Co-Director at Chabad) Chavi.
Below, Andrew Leibman, one of the lucky attendees of the monumental event shares his reflections of the evening:
Shabbat is best spent in the company of others. This idea was driven home in an unprecedented fashion on April 19th when Chabad and Hillel joined forces to host the largest Shabbat dinner in University (and perhaps even State) of Minnesota history. The goal was to bring together 250 Jewish students for a Shabbat celebration at the U of M campus. The students were invited via Facebook and encouraged to bring their friends along with them. As the week progressed there was an almost tangible build up in excitement, as everyone anticipated what was to come at this first annual event.
Since a celebration of this magnitude clearly could not fit inside the cozy confines of the Chabad house, a large tent was erected in the adjacent lot to accommodate all the attendees. At 6:00 PM on Friday evening, the guests started to arrive. Everyone had time to socialize with one another while steaming matzo ball soup was dished out from a huge pot. As the steady stream of students found their way into the tent, everyone began to take seats. The large round tables seated eight, thus giving the students the ability to sit next to their friends as well as meet new ones.
Just before sunset, Rabbi Yitzi Steiner, Co-Director of Chabad, and his family grabbed the microphone to give a warm welcome to all those in attendance, and to express their appreciation to all those that made the event possible. He then proceeded to lead the large group in Kiddush and other Shabbat blessings. Each guest got their own their own handmade miniature challah to enjoy. The hum of voices in the room grew louder as the students and other guests engaged in conversation over the delicious home cooked Shabbat meal. After the challah and soup came a noodle dish and salad, followed by a chicken main course. It’s safe to say that no one left the tent hungry that night.
Shortly after the meal started, a sudden influx of students arrived, only to find a full house; every single seat was already taken! Extra tables and chairs were quickly arranged to provide for the increasing amount of attendees that came out for this special celebration. Towards the end of the meal, while standing on a chair in the center of the room, Rabbi Steiner sang loudly as he led the group in traditional Jewish songs. Even those that were not familiar with the words of the songs listened with delight as the warmth and energy in the room grew.
After the meal, a traditional prayer service was held. Everyone was invited to join if they wished, or feel free to leave whenever they wanted. After all, the goal of the night was to bring as many Jews together as possible, regardless of their level of religious observance, or lack thereof. All in attendance at this historic evening would heartily agree that the first ever “Shabbat 250” was an enormous success. Hopefully it will continue to grow in the future and become a “Shabbat 300”, or even larger.