One thousand students celebrate Jewish day of rest

Students lit candles at the beginning of the event to honor Shabbat and create Shalom bayit, peace in the house. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Zepeda)

Over 1,100 students gathered for Shabbat 1,000 Friday evening — the largest Jewish event in USC history — to celebrate the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, known as Shabbat in Hebrew.

At the beginning of the event, attendees prayed at the Chabad house and walked to the Sigma Chi fraternity house for dinner.

Shabbat takes place every week from Friday at sundown to Saturday evening, where Jewish people take the time to rest and be mindful of themselves and of the overall community.

Although Chabad holds Shabbat dinners every week with an estimated 200 guests, Rabbi Dov Wagner said the organization hosts a large Shabbat event every year to encourage more people from the University to gather. Last year, around 700 students attended.

“It is a great opportunity to enhance pride in identity, involvement and engagement,” Wagner said. “Especially to people who aren’t usually as involved, it’s a way of introducing the strengths of our community to the campus as a whole.”

In light of Saturday’s shooting that caused the death of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Wagner said he is grateful for the support and diversity at Shabbat Friday.

“There is so often hatred in our world,” Wagner said. “People are ashamed, embarrassed or scared to express who they are, to express their identity. Just getting to see so many people … celebrating, experiencing what the joy of a community is about.”

During the dinner, guests and attendees participated in a candle lighting ceremony, prayed over wine and bread and listened to Wagner speak about Vayera, that week’s section of the Torah.

“Looking around and seeing all my friends who were so happy to be there, I think that just really made the energy of the entire event so special,” said Chabad co-President Avia Cohen. “Everyone was having an amazing time, everyone was happy to be there. It was really something that I will never forget.”

Albert Fishteyn, a sophomore majoring in music industry, said the dinner emphasized connectivity and togetherness.

“It was a no judgement zone.,” Fishteyn said. “There was no fear of approaching people, you were more than welcome to approach people and talk to them.”

Wagner also hopes students who attended Shabbat 1,000 learn to be prouder of their heritage.

“We hope that they get a sense of pride in their own identity and the awareness that there is strong and vibrant Jewish life here at USC,” Wagner said. “We’re lucky to be at a university that welcomes diversity [and] that’s been very welcoming to our community. We’re proud of the opportunities to gather together and celebrate our heritage.”