Day of peace: ‘Teaching Shabbat’

Butler students gathered on Feb. 23 to celebrate and learn about Shabbat practices. Photo by Riina Korri. 



A new event on campus organized by the Center for Faith and Vocation (CFV) aimed to expose and educate students on Jewish religious life and culture. “Teaching Shabbat,” a student-organized service hosted on Feb. 23 in the basement of South Campus, featured the interpretation and storytelling of Jewish traditions in a way meant to immerse students in the holiday sacrament fully. 

While this is not the first Shabbat that the CFV has put on, it is the first one surrounding the education of Shabbat to those who do not practice Judaism. 

As students and staff entered the room, they were greeted with the option of adorning their heads with a kippah, a brimless cap often worn by Jewish males during prayer. 

Each person took a seat at tables that were decorated with challah rolls and kosher wine. Participants also had access to their own “Teaching Shabbat Siddur”, Jewish prayer books that hold each cantation in Hebrew, an Anglicized transliteration and an English translation. 

Michael Aronson, an adjunct lecturer in the Department of English and College of Communication, is the Jewish Life Advisor for the CFV. Aronson is passionate about creating an educational environment surrounding Jewish culture on campus. 

“Something important to understand is that Shabbat is something Jewish people do every Friday and Saturday [night],” Aronson said. “It is a holiday that happens every week. We’re trying to get people to understand and appreciate this element of Jewish time what it means to live Jewish, the rhythms of the week, how we relate to work, rest and work on our professions and ourselves.” 

The service began with a rabbi and a cantor, affiliated with Adat ha’Araphel — Congregation of the Cloud temple, encouraging all participants to form one great circle and to simply “do as your heart moves you.” As prayers were read, most participants sang or hummed along, occasionally rising out of their chairs when the cantor requested. Some appreciated the service in silence. 

After the closing prayer was read, the kosher buffet was open to all guests; popular dishes included the matzo ball soup, the baked apricot chicken and the chocolate parfaits, each topped with whipped cream and a strawberry slice. Participants slid their chairs back to their original tables and enjoyed the feast with friends, new and old. 

Alyssa Smith, a sophomore psychology and Spanish double major, is the co-president of Jewish student organization Hillel and helped create and set up this event. 

“There’s been a group of several students, including myself, who have worked together to develop a layout for this event and a program [where] we’re able to eat, celebrate Shabbat and educate about it as well,” Smith said. “It’s a fun way for people to get together at the end of the week and do something different.” 

Jenna Burd, a sophomore entrepreneurship and innovation and marketing double major, helped organize and attended the event as part of her role as an intern for the CFV. 

“It’s [important to] make sure everyone feels welcome and to take the necessary steps to invite people from other faith groups,” Burd said. “This is something that I’ve been doing in my home for years, and it’s cool to have my friends come and experience culture that they wouldn’t ordinarily experience.” 

This educational Shabbat event is a start to cultural exposure and understanding of tradition among students. Information about upcoming events can be found on Instagram at @centerforfaithandvocation.


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