Hillel’s Shabbat with 10 Strangers kicks off second year Friday

Tyler Pager, Reporter

Normally a meal to spend time with friends and family, Shabbat dinner will look very different for a dozen Northwestern students this Friday when they attend Shabbat with 10 Strangers’ first dinner of the year.

Modeled after the NU Alumni Association’s Dinner with 12 Strangers, Shabbat with 10 Strangers’ dinners are hosted by either a faculty member or NU graduate and allow students to experience a family’s traditional Shabbat dinner.

McCormick junior Danielle Marks and SESP and Bienen junior Tova Yampolsky started the program while interning at Hillel’s Campus Engagement Corps, where they identified a lack of opportunities for students to attend informal and intimate Shabbat dinners.

“There are few Shabbat experiences planned on campus outside of the traditional Jewish organizations,” Marks said.

A similar program was started two years ago but had limited success. However, Marks and Yampolsky decided to revitalize the initiative with 10 dinners last year. They already have five dinners planned for this fall.

“After each dinner, we send out a survey and the results have been wonderful,” Marks said. “People always say the food is very, very good and the families are so welcoming.”

Medill junior Stephen Autar, the group’s marketing director, is not Jewish and emphasized that the dinners are open to students from all religious backgrounds.

“It’s really awesome for me to learn about a new culture and religion,” he said. “We really want to focus on getting more non-Jewish students involved.”

Hillel’s executive director Michael Simon said he is thrilled with the program.

“We’re really excited that Danielle and Tova have been able to engage students who might not otherwise connect with Hillel or Jewish life,” he said. “(The dinner is) fun and informal but also a meaningful experience where (students) have the chance to connect with faculty and their peers.”

Last year, Simon and his wife, Jewish studies Prof. Claire Sufrin, hosted two dinners through the program.

“From the host perspective, it was a tremendous program both in terms of the opportunity to invite and have students in our home — some of whom I’ve never seen at Hillel — and reach a different population of both Jewish and non-Jewish students.”

Correction: A previous version of the article misstated Tova Yampolsky’s school and year. The Daily regrets the error.

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