Northwestern Hillel hosts Mega Shabbat for first time since 2020


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Norris University Center. Northwestern a capella group ShireiNU performed prior to dinner at Mega Shabbat on Friday.

Virginia Hunt, Reporter

Hundreds of NU community members gathered in the Norris University Center Friday night to eat food and enjoy a musical performance at Northwestern’s first Mega Shabbat event since 2020.

Hillel invited students of all faiths and cultural backgrounds to the event, which featured optional Reform, Conservative and Orthodox services followed by mocktails, a performance by Jewish a capella group ShireiNU and a catered kosher dinner including chicken and challah, as well as vegan options.  

Hillel has hosted Mega Shabbat at NU since 2012. The event organizers wanted this year’s event to be “better than ever” following a COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, said Mega Shabbat Logistics Chair and Weinberg senior Sloane Warner.

Shabbat is a traditional day of rest for those who practice Judaism. It begins at sundown every Friday and ends at sunset the following evening. The day of rest is frequently celebrated with a communal dinner, which Hillel hosts weekly.

For Warner, Shabbat is a time to refresh from the past week and prepare for the next, she said. 

“It’s a time to be together and celebrate the community,” Warner said. “It is an opportunity for everyone to have a conversation with a new person.”

Hillel Executive Director Michael Simon said NU community members are constantly busy, which makes Shabbat a special time to take a pause.

Mega Shabbat started at NU as an opportunity for gathering and bringing joy to the Jewish community during a time of year between traditional Jewish holidays, Simon said. 

Warner said she was initially unsure if the event would draw enough attendees to fill the second floor of Norris.

However, the event exceeded expectations and required a waitlist, she said.

Warner attributed the event’s success to the organization’s welcoming atmosphere and the desire of Hillel members to connect with friends through culture.

Bienen and Communication junior Allison Brook, who attended Friday’s event, said it can often be difficult to immerse herself on campus because she lives off-campus. But, Mega Shabbat and other Hillel events offer opportunities to be involved with the Jewish community on campus, she said. 

“I see so many people that I see around but that I don’t really know, as well as immediate friends,” Brook said. “It’s nice to destress after a rigorous academic time.”

Next year, Simon and the other event organizers hope to grow Mega Shabbat attendance and make it a place for all students to share an evening together, he said.

Until then, Hillel will continue to host a weekly Shabbat open to all students. 

“Anyone is welcome at Hillel, tonight and every other night,” Simon said.

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