We love Jewish Holidays at Shabbos House! Each holiday is an amazing opportunity to celebrate Jewishly together as a campus community, with student-friendly YomTov prayer services, festive meals and delicious foods, meaningful messages and heartwarming and uplifting atmosphere.
Here’s a quick synopsis of what happens on these Jewish holidays at Shabbos House / UAlbany:
Since UAlbany gives off for the Jewish New Year, most students head home to spend the holiday with their families. Some do stay up here, and some neighbors, faculty & community like to join, so Shabbos House has been hosting Rosh Hashanah services and festive meals. The services are traditional yet student-friendly, explained throughout with no sermon. There is no charge, although donations help defray the cost.
UAlbany Hillel and Shabbos House have been co-sponsoring and co-arranging Yom-Kippur Services for many years now. In recent years we have one joint traditional/student-friendly service for the Kol Nidrei and Neilah evenings, and split into two services (traditional and egalitarian) during the morning service. Depending on the calendar, the Pre-Fast and Break-Fast are sponsored by either UAlbany Hillel or Shabbos House. Most years the services are held in the Campus Center, while some years it was held at Shabbos House.
This might be our favorite time of the year! Sukkot wins on atmosphere and vibe, and its often the time of year when the freshmen class begins to gel as a group. Shabbos House hosts all Sukkos Holiday meals (aside for Chol HaMoed – the intermediate weekday days of the festival), which can sometimes be as many as 12 meals in little over one week! We vary menus according to a theme, do extra singing and have after-meal Onegs/Farbrengens in the Sukkah. Plus, there’s the Sukkah Building BBQ prior to Sukkot, usually one or two weeknight events in the Sukkah, and we also do all the holiday prayers here with great Lulav Shakes and Hallel singing.
This a once-a-year not-to-miss night of spirited dancing with the Torahs at Shabbos House. What makes this night different? We dance the night away, usually until around midnight, with all types of song and positive energy. Some students come for an hour or two, others give it their all. We often have alumni who come back for this holiday. There’s a big buffet meal, a special souvenir, and uplifting spiritual energy to last and linger all year. Festivities continue the following morning, albeit much calmer than the night prior, and an extra-long prayer service with lots of interactive extras. Simchat Torah culminates the holiday of week of Sukkot, a spiritual high, a great climax.
Depending on the year, Chanukah can fall close to Finals or during Break, or sometimes we get a whole 8 days of Chanukah during early December. We celebrate in a variety of ways including a Hot Latke Table at Campus Center, public ceremonial Menorah lightings, as well as ifnormal evening lightings at Shabbos House, some years we’ve done Latke Eating Contests and other special events. We’ve also done specialty themed Menorahs over the years: CANorah (later donated to a Food Pantry), and Coin-Menorah in Hurricane Glasses to benefit Sandy victims, and a Toy-Menorah to help kids with special needs.
This minor Jewish holiday celebrating trees and growth usually falls near the start of the Spring semester. Some years we’ve done a Tu Bishvat Seder educational experience (other years Hillel has hosted that), sometimes we do a related themed-Shabbat. We’ve also tabled on campus with fruit-roll-up flowers or dried-fruit fondue etc.
It sometimes falls during break, but when it’s on campus we like to celebrate with a big Purim theme! Purim Inc (aka Monsters) (2013), Occupy Purim (2012), Purim Under the Sea (2011), Wings Over Shushan, My Big Fat Greek Purim, and other fun celebrations over the years. Some Purims we had Carnivals on campus with booths and activities co-sponsored with other groups. The main event is usually on the eve of Purim, with Megillah, a big costume Masquerade and the theme foods and decor, while we have a Purim Meal in the afternoon of Purim Day, again with Megillah and (smaller) festivity.
PESACH / PASSOVER
Most years UAlbany gives off for the Pesach Seders, either way we host Seders at Shabbos House for students staying up here or without places to go. For those who can only come for a short time, we have A-Seder-Within-A-Seder option for key-Seder aspects. Shabbos House provides Kosher for Passover meals, prayers and holiday atmosphere on the holiday days of Passover (first two and last two of the 8 days, plus if there’s a Shabbat in between). As with nearly all Shabbos House events, there is no charge to students, but we do rely on donations from parents and alumni to help defray these major food costs. UAlbany Dutch Kosher Dining does kosherize for Passover most years and offers Kosher for Passover meals, especially on the Intermediate weekday days of Passover.
If this minor holiday celebrating Jewish unity and mysticism falls early enough to be during the academic calendar, we usually celebrate with a firepit or BBQ, with music and inspiration and sometimes a little learning.
It is rare that Shavuot (festival of the Giving of the Torah) falls in the academic calendar, as it is usually late May or early June. We only host Shavuot here if it falls during Finals or over Graduation Weekend. When we have it, we enjoy cheesecakes, dairy foods, and an evening of late-night Torah study.