The high-strung commotion that often fills Commons’ cavernous halls was replaced with a rare solemnity on Friday evening as more than 500 guests filed into the dining hall serenaded by Magevet, Yale’s coed Jewish a cappella group.
Commons played host to Shabbat 1000 — the product of four Jewish organizations working to collaborate, six months of planning and a vision conceived more than two years ago. This event, organized by the Yale Hillel, Chabad at Yale, the Chaplin’s Office and the Jewish Federation of New Haven, was an attempt to open this Jewish tradition to students of all faiths and to establish an annual event with the goal of attracting 1,000 guests.
The tables at Commons — usually strewn with half-read newspapers, fliers and laptops — were covered with white tablecloths and plates of challah, gefilte fish, hummus, salad and pasta.
“This is a phenomenal response — we have had over 500 people sign up for the event,” said Max Goldman, president of Chabad at Yale, as he watched small crowds gather outside the entrance to Commons.
When the dinner officially began, Rabbi Shua Rosenstein of Yale Chabad, who led the prayers, song and reflection, welcomed the crowd with a chorus of “Shabbat Shalom.”
For the organizers of Shabbat 1000, the event served a dual purpose.
“We want to unite the Jewish community at Yale to celebrate our traditions in one place,” Rosenstein said. “But we also hope to use the event to educate everyone about the ideals, celebrations and traditions of the Jewish faith.”
Marjie Galler ’10, the co-organizer of Shabbat 1000, echoed: “This is truly a special movement to have — the event represents a very important part of culture and spirituality at Yale.”
Yet the road to planning Shabbat 1000 was not entirely smooth. It was a learning experience, Yale Hillel member Avi Kupfer ’10 explained, to coordinate the diverse interests of the four Jewish organizations who planned the event.
The 50 table leaders spent the last week organizing, Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Yale Hillel added, and the eight-person board had already spent the last six months in preparation.
But after all the challah had risen and the wine glasses had been filled with grape juice, the hosts sat down and enjoyed the festivities. Rabbi Rosenstein called the evening a “great success,” and Kupfer said he was “extremely proud of the interest expressed by the Yale community.”
Edie Joseph ’12, one of the table leaders, said she convinced her entire entryway floor to attend Shabbat 1000.
“I thought it would be really great to get everyone to learn about Shabbat, because it is a big part of my experience here at Yale,” she said.
Her suitemate, Michelle Dyke ’12, said she “became very curious” after reading the event’s numerous promotional e-mails and hearing about it from Joseph.
“It is also really nice to be able to learn more about Jewish traditions while having dinner with my roommates,” she added while reaching out to sample gefilte fish for the first time. “I didn’t realize how deeply steeped in tradition this event was.”
For others, Shabbat 1000 was also simply a culinary indulgence: “I love challah,” said Serrena Iyer ’12, as she reached for another piece.