Class of 2021 Jewish students gathered at the Shoulberg family’s house for Shabbat dinner and celebration on Oct. 23. Photo: Mindy Shoulberg

For their first major event of the year, the Jewish affinity group hosted community Shabbat dinners for members of the cohort. Facilitated by English teacher Robert Kaufman, the affinity group was formed last year. Seniors Casey Shoulberg and Madison Martin spearheaded the operation and succeeded in getting many other Jewish people to join. The group includes around 75 members from all four grades.

For Jewish people, the Sabbath begins each Friday night at nightfall and lasts until Saturday at sunset, and is often referred to by the Hebrew word Shabbat. Jewish people celebrate Shabbat in different ways, but it typically includes rest, traditional meals and candle lightings.

The beginning of the Sabbath is often marked by a Shabbat dinner on Friday evening. Dinners consist of customary foods: challah, wine, meat, soup and dessert. Observing Shabbat calls for the refrain from vigorous work and stressful thoughts. It also allows the opportunity to strengthen community-wide and familial bonds. 

On Oct. 23, the Shabbat that the affinity group organized took place at four houses, one for each grade. The Lubins, Jankos, Leusinks and Shoulbergs hosted the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors respectively.

The night started off with some small talk. “It is important for the students to relax and have fun,” said Mr. Kaufman. “They do not always have to talk about their AP US History exam.” Next, there were many blessings involving the candles, challah bread and grape juice (taking the place of wine). Eventually, the dinner commenced, which consisted of a few traditional Jewish foods, but mostly Americanized Jewish food such as beef brisket, potatoes and babka. 

“I really enjoyed when we made s’mores at Shabbat after playing Jewish jeopardy,” said junior Marissa Goodman. “It ws really nice to bond with my Jewish classmates outside of school.” Senior Eli Mautner en- joyed “coming together to share blessings and stories as a Jewish community.”

Aside from the Shabbat, the Jewish affinity group holds morning meetings sporadically that address different themes. Themes include the state of Israel, anti-semitism, and various other issues facing the Jewish community today. “There is a good diversity of thought within the group,” said senior Marc Rosenthal. “A good part of Judaism is the amount of questioning and thought that goes into our beliefs and faith.”

In the future, the Jewish affinity group plans to do a lot more within the community than in previous years. Although COVID-19 poses unique challenges, the leaders of the group aim to engage in community service, mentorships with Jewish middle school students and field trips to various locations.  

Top photo: Sophomore members of the Jewish affinity group met for Shabbat dinner at the home of Henry Leusink and his family. Photo: Henry Leusink

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