Fifth annual Shabbat 1000 celebrated at UCF
On Friday, March 3rd, hundreds of students from the University of Central Florida community came together for the fifth annual mega Shabbat dinner in the Pegasus Ballroom.
The goal of the "Shabbat 1000" project, which was developed by the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, is to "continue building on Jewish unity annually until the dinner reaches 1,000 participants," said Chabad at UCF's director, Rabbi Chaim Lipskier.
Lipskier and his wife Rivkie began hosting these dinners in their home 10 years ago, starting out with just a small group of students. Now, as Chabad at UCF celebrates its 10th year on campus, the event has grown into a family affair including hundreds of extended family members.
Some students, like sophomore psychology major Olivia Ojalvo, brought her family to the Shabbat celebration.
"It's one of the bigger events of the year," said Ojalvo, with her father Jack and younger sister Alex by her side. "I always celebrate with my family."
The evening started at 5:30 p.m. with a mixer over delicious appetizers. During this time, attendees were encouraged to converse with one another, adding to the family feel of the event as strangers and friends exchanged handshakes and hugs.
Greetings from the University were then delivered by Dr. Ehasz, vice president for Student Development and Enrollment Services. Dr. Ehasz shared how she constantly hears from students that Chabad is their "home away from home," and a place where students can practice and celebrate their Judaism.
Prior to ushering in the Shabbat, Chabad at UCF Co-Director Rivkie Lipskier shared a few words about the impact of Shabbat candle lighting on transforming the darkness of this world into light.
"The lighting is a tradition of the Jewish faith to herald in the Shabbat celebration," said Gal Cahlon, Chabad's president and junior hospitality major.
"Women play a key role in this moment, bringing joy into the home," added Jack Ojalvo.
After the Shabbat candle lighting and Kiddush and HaMotzi blessings, everyone enjoyed a delicious Shabbat dinner.
Dr Terri Susan Fine Stenzler, Political Science professor at UCF, associate director of the Lou Frey Institute of Politics & Government, and Student adviser to the Chabad Jewish Student Group, shared her experiences moving to Orlando 28 years ago to teach at UCF. Without the funds to purchase a ticket for the High Holidays, the only place that welcomed her was Rabbi Sholom and Devorah Dubov of Chabad of Greater Orlando.
"That is the spirit that Rabbi and Rebbetzin Lipskier brought to UCF 10 years ago. They welcome all Jewish students and go to great lengths to support Jewish students both as they pursue their religious paths, but also in their secular and academic lives. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them and wish them, and you, much nachas and mazal in the years to come."
The event culminated with the Shabbat dinner, marked by a palpable sense of camaraderie and connection. Indeed, after the sun sets on Friday, technology is turned off and the focus turns to family and friends.
"Shabbat is the beginning of the day of rest," said senior business management major Evan Deacon. "It is a time to be in the moment, be with the people you love and appreciate what you have."
Shabbat 1000 is a Chabad on Campus initiative that is co-sponsored by the Student Government Association, Judaic Studies at UCF, UCF Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Zeta Beta Tau, Gamma Phi Beta, Knight-Thon and Knights for Israel.
The Chabad Jewish Student Center is a resource for the students and faculty at UCF, Valencia & surrounding colleges.
For more information about events please contact, www.jewishucf.com.