Not that any one really needs a reason to be at a Shabbat dinner celebrating as a campus community – but here are a bunch of reasons we’ve been thinking about (and randomly posting on Facebook) in the lead-up to this first-ever joint mega Shabbat dinner at UAlbany – December 4th, 2015

UAlbanyShabbat360Tshirt(1) The t-shirt says it all. This isn’t just another free t-shirt (which isn’t a bad thing either). This is a joint effort by Jewish campus groups and organizations. And its in UAlbany colors of #purpleandgold #purplefam and school spirit! We should have enough for everyone (free of charge) but there’s no assurance of specific sizes unless you signed up early enough.

KeepCalmPlentyOfTime(2) You’re not tying up your Friday Night! Dinner is at 7pm, so you’ll be out early enough to to do whatever you’d like to do on Friday Nights. Keep calm! You can have your meaningful and wonderful Shabbat360 and your own exciting and busy Friday Night, too!

HakhelConnectedJEM(3) This is the year of the biblical Hakhel, the year of Jewish gathering. This Shabbat360 certainly qualifies, bringing together Jews of all walks of life, a wide spectrum of backgrounds and levels of affiliation and observance – for a meaningful, memorable and uplifting Shabbat dinner together. Every gathering we have this year (5776 in Hebrew) can be turned into a Hakhel experience but such a Shabbos especially qualifies.

ShareTheLights(4) This Shabbat takes place just before Chanukah, which begins this coming Sunday night on December 6th. See this post for a whole slew of events we’re doing for almost every night of Chanukah, especially leading up to Finals Week begins. A big theme of Chanukah is to #sharethelights (use that hashtag for your menorah pics) and this shared Shabbat with a bigger crowd than usual, helps get us into the spirit of #sharethelights!

AmYisraelChai(5) Having this song on the program is reason to come!  I don’t know about you, but I get the chills and big uplift when we sing this song in a crowd. #AmYisraelChai sings of the Jewish people’s survival and thrival throughout the ages, up to this very day. It was sung in the struggle for Soviet Jewry, we have great personal memories of it from 19 Simchat Torahs at Shabbos House. It starts low and slow, but builds tempo and momentum, it brings out something deeply Jewish and proud within each of us.

JellyBeanConversations(6) These stacks of tri-color jellybeans are for a table game called “Jellybean Conversations”. We can’t spill the beans yet, some come to find out how it works, and you might also learn a thing or two about the people around the table with whom you are sitting. And they’re edible, too. Plus we have mints and chocolate and other nibbles on the table, in addition to the buffet dinner served by Sodexho – all Kosher from the Kosher Dining at Dutch.

jeSuisJuif(7) We like to stay positive, but we can’t ignore the realities in Israel, in Europe and even right here in the United States. In times like these, with the challenges and threats on the rise, its all the more important that we unite and stand strong, proudly as one. Come out and be part of the community, we are much stronger when we are together!

There are many more reasons of course, but Shabbat is quickly approaching and there’s much still to be done. If you are elsewhere, celebrate with us in spirit. If you are @ualbany this Shabbat360, please please make every effort to join us. See you there!


Postscript: Now that it actually happened… wow, wow, wow —- it really was 360! The room filled up, quickly and quietly, without fanfare but with tremendous vibe! The huge turnout, the respectful crowd, the Kiddush resonating in the silence, and crowd joining in the songs… Indeed it was a Hakhel, as the Rebbe sees it, the numbers of people together and the purpose of their gathering themselves an inspiration. Walking the room and saying hi at tables, saw many many familiar faces whom we’ve seen at various events and programs or holidays, but never seen all together at the same time, under one roof. What togetherness! What a Jewish campus communal celebration. And as SA President Jarius Jemmott said, “he’s never seen this many students sit down together for a meal in this ballroom before.” In many ways, indeed, as the first song we sang says: “Shabbat Shalom – Hey!”