Hillel brings Shabbat to students

Students can celebrate Friday night Shabbat in the comfort of their own homes through USC Hillel’s Shabbat in a Box, a program that provides students with the essential items to mark the weekly holiday.

The program — which began at USC in the spring after USC Hillel saw other university Hillels had similar efforts — encourages the weekly practice of the Jewish day of rest, Friday, said Eric Kawalsky, co-chair of Shabbat at USC Hillel.

“The purpose of the program is to encourage students to bring Judaism home with them so they can carry on customs and traditions in their own homes,” Kawalsky said.

Shabbat is celebrated differently from household to household, Kawalsky said. Some refrain from doing any type of work during the period of rest, including driving and cooking, while others celebrate by lighting candles and enjoying a home-cooked meal.

“Shabbat in a Box provides the possibility for students to express their Judaism and explore Shabbat in their own way,” Kawalsky said.

Shabbat in a Box is offered every week to students who choose to hold their own Shabbat dinner rather than attend the meals hosted by Hillel. The funding for Shabbat in a Box comes from the same donors who provide funds for Hillel, Kawalsky said.

Students can sign up for Shabbat in a Box — which can provide materials for up to 10 people — on Wednesdays. In each box is one large bottle of grape juice, one large challah, Shabbat candles, a Shabbat prayer guide, utensils and a small stipend to help purchase ingredients for the meals. The boxes can be picked up either the Thursday before Shabbat or the morning of at Hillel, located near Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard.

“This is a fantastic idea. It enables students to bring Shabbat to their college doorstep,” said Ben Kattan, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “I feel like much of the beauty of Shabbat is being able to enjoy it in the comfort of your own home or in this case your second home, and this is exactly what Hillel is allowing students to do.”

Hillel receives about 10 orders for boxes on per week for Shabbat in a Box, Kawalsky said.

Kawalsky said Shabbat in a Box had received positive feedback because of the program’s ability to create a cohesive Jewish experience outside of Hillel.

“Shabbat in a Box excites me because it allows people to experience Shabbat dinner in their own way,” Kawalsky said. “[Students] can share with their friends how Shabbat was done with their families, or they can share a Jewish custom with some non-Jewish friends.”

Leanna Balaban, a sophomore majoring in public relations, said she appreciated Shabbat in a Box.

“I think it is a great idea,” Balaban said. “It gives people more of an incentive to connect with their religion and community at home.”