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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Hillel brings annual MegaShabbat celebration to Ryan Fieldhouse

Illustration by Shveta Shah
Northwestern Hillel’s annual MegaShabbat dinner moved to Ryan Fieldhouse this year to accommodate 500 students and faculty.

For Jews around the world, Shabbat brings a day of holiness and rest every week from Friday evening to Saturday evening. But, Northwestern Hillel’s annual MegaShabbat extravaganza, held in Ryan Fieldhouse Friday, took the tradition to a new level.

Hillel first began hosting the celebration in 2012 and, with the exception of a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has continued to welcome community members for a hearty meal and celebration of Jewish culture ever since.

“Every week at Hillel, we have a great dinner, a great community, everything like that, but this is blown up times 50 or so,” Weinberg junior and Hillel Student Executive Board President Sari Eisen said. “It’s a really great way for so many students to come together and enjoy a great meal and enjoy each other’s company.”

About 500 students, faculty and NU community members attended this year’s collaborative event between Hillel and Chabad. The event featured religious services in the Technological Institute, Shabbat’s customary challah and grape juice, Jewish-themed mocktails, a performance from NU’s Jewish a capella group ShireiNU and a catered meal of chicken piccata, risotto, salad and roasted vegetables.

With MegaShabbat, Hillel aims to bring together Jewish and non-Jewish students to share in part of Jewish culture, according to Weinberg senior Lily Cohen, logistics co-chair of the MegaShabbat planning committee.

“MegaShabbat is only one of the amazing large-scale programs Northwestern Hillel puts on,” Cohen said. “I think it’s such a special event because it brings together more members of the community than some of the other events that are more specifically geared towards Jewish students.”

MegaShabbat requires months of planning, she said. As one of five co-chairs on the MegaShabbat planning committee, Cohen said she rented tables and procured tablecloths, napkins, plates, cups, silverware, decorations and centerpieces.

NU Hillel Executive Director Michael Simon started the first MegaShabbat in Allison Hall in 2012. The event has taken place in Norris University Center for the past few years. The event was moved to Ryan Fieldhouse this year to accommodate more people. Simon said Hillel chose to host MegaShabbat in February because there are fewer Jewish holidays in the winter to bring the community together.

He said the event is especially significant this year for the Jewish community on campus.

“It was really important that MegaShabbat could be an evening where we could come together, whatever our backgrounds, wherever people stand politically, and come together for a celebratory evening of unity,” Simon said.

Medill freshman Braedon Olsen is a member of First Year Students at Hillel. He said about 50 people usually attend Hillel’s Shabbat dinners, but MegaShabbat brings together all Jewish student groups at NU.

Weinberg freshman Sam McLain said his girlfriend is Jewish, and he attended his first Shabbat with her one week before MegaShabbat.

“I’m not Jewish and I’m glad to be here,” McLain said. “It gives a space that is really social and safe.”

Weinberg freshman Daniel Slater said he attended MegaShabbat to get more involved with the Jewish community at NU.

He added it is important for Jewish students to share their culture and identity through such celebrations so they can establish a sense of safety and community on campus.

“I haven’t been the most attached to Jewish life here on campus,” Slater said. “And I think, especially this year, it feels really important and prescient to all come together as a community.”

Email: [email protected]

X: @IsaiahStei27

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