By Jim Sojourner, Rocky Mountain Collegian
The harsh syllables of sung Hebrew words — some in tune, others not even close — echoed off the ballroom walls as a mostly Jewish crowd prepared to partake in the Shabbat 150 dinner Friday night.
Those in the Lory Student Center’s North Ballroom had gathered for a variety of reasons, some for fellowship, some to share their sense of Jewish identity and some just to have fun.
But, although the individual reasons for attendance may have varied, no one was going to miss out on the food.
The free, four-course meal that ranged from a fresh salad and matzah ball soup to gefilte fish and kugel was praised almost unanimously by the roughly 150 who attended the dinner.
“Free food!” Eric Charney, a Jewish political science student, said. “Jewish people like free things!”
“That’s more than half the experience: the food,” Shirit Stern, vice president of Chabad Jewish Student Organization agreed.
On a more serious note, though, Jews and non-Jews alike said they felt the event was an important community builder for the Jewish community at CSU.
“I’m proud I belong to thousands of years of traditions,” Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik said in his thick Australian accent. “I’m a walking advertisement for ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ but somebody has to do it.”
He added that events like the Shabbat dinner help build “a sense of good will and companionship.”
Stern seconded Gorelik’s sentiments and said the dinner is beneficial in “kind of a unifying sense.”
Chabad President Max Brodsky said the dinner helps members of the Jewish community get together and feel like a family rather than feeling the alienation that often accompanies being a minority.
“It helps students feel that pride, that strength and that community,” Brodsky said.
Furthermore, both the Chabad executives and Rabbi Gorelik agreed that the dinners help to educate non-Jews on the practices of the Jewish community.
“It’s good for us and to educate other people, and we appreciate that CSU has given us this opportunity,” Gorelik said
Stern agreed that the education element of the dinner is important in helping Jews integrate their traditions into a largely non-Jewish culture.
“Tolerance, education, appreciation,” Stern said. “When you don’t have tolerance, it’s because of ignorance.”
“It gives a little bit of a glimpse into the Jewish lifestyle,” Charney said.
The few non-Jews in the crowd seemed enthusiastic about getting a “little bit of a glimpse” at the unfamiliar traditions.
“I’m just curious about how it works,” Kyra Nance, a sophomore art student said.
Austin Lee, a sophomore business student, said he came to support his Jewish roommates.
“I definitely respect my roommates’ religion, and I want to see what they do here,” Lee said.
With full stomachs and, for many, full souls, conversation and laughter continued long after the meal was completed and smiling faces were at each full table.
“It’s a nice community and a beautiful event,” said Barb Smith, a biomedical engineering graduate student. “Good people, good time, good fun.”