A rabbi, a congressman, a basketball player and more than 200 students and community members gathered Friday in the Lory Student Center West Ballroom to celebrate Shabbat 200.
Shabbat traditions originated thousands of years ago, but maintain a sense of slowing down every Friday and focusing on the important aspects of life, according to Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik. He and students from CSU’s Chabad Jewish Student Organization led guests through the meal and its accompanying blessings, explaining the significance of traditional dishes and songs interspersed with jokes and speeches.
“I hope you are re-Jew-vinated,” Gorelik said, explaining the purpose of Shabbat.
“Rabbi, you should be more Jew-dicious with your puns,” countered Michael Lichtbach, president of Chabad.
Congressman Jared Polis, who grew up in a Jewish family, attended the event as a guest of honor. Polis added his voice to the religious songs and clapped gleefully as matzo ball soup was served. He also explained how he has upheld his faith as a congressman through an informal Jewish caucus in Congress.
“There are many different ways to manifest Judaism,” Polis said. “Spirit, culture, through knowledge, through family. Part of the universal experience is to find out how to express Judaism as a part of your identity.”
Motivational speaker and former basketball player Tamir Goodman, or “Jewish Jordan,” spoke during the event and shared his struggles and triumphs as a Jewish athlete committed to keeping Shabbat. At one point in college, he got off his team’s bus before Shabbat began and walked in the snow to a Jewish community center, then walked two hours the next morning to the university to support his teammates.
“I’d never felt more Jewish,” Goodman said. “Judaism came alive to me through basketball and through my own unique journey.”
Goodman explained his journey through basketball-related lessons: “The layup” shows that, to be successful, people have to devote themselves 100 percent; “The free throw” represents a return of confidence when people remember their identity; “Listening” involves focusing on what people can do, as opposed to what they cannot; and “paying attention” reminds people to focus and help others.
Goodman said he believes everything he experienced in his career was divinely ordained, and he was meant to share his story with others and help them through similar struggles.
“That’s the best part coming to speak,” Goodman said. “It’s part of my duty, part of my journey, part of my job to share my story because it relates to so many different types of people on so many different levels that it’s not just for athletes, it’s not just for people in the corporate world.”
Goodman admits that his career would have been smoother if he had not kept Shabbat and that the practice is difficult for some to understand. For him, it is not outdated and brings fresh perspective.
“I feel like we only live once and when we look back, are we going to say that every single day of our entire life we were focused on checking our email and going to the movies and just constantly going through the same routine, or are we going to look back and say ‘Wow, I really enjoyed that moment.’”
Freshman Spanish major Savannah Nelson, who came to the dinner with Jewish friends and wanted to learn more about the culture, said she was inspired by Goodman’s dedication to his faith.
“I learned if you have trouble, always be yourself and who you are,” Nelson said. “As a freshman… I felt isolated, I felt like I’m not being myself lately and his message rang true for me: Be yourself and things will follow through for you.”
Nelson said that when she chose CSU she wanted to meet people of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures, and she would be interested in learning more about the Jewish faith.
Shabbat 200 reminded freshman Lauren Mittman of major holiday celebrations at home. The food, prayers and traditions connected her to other people who come from the same background, she said.
“We’re all connected, all one voice, we all know exactly how to go on and there’s no awkwardness or confusion. We’re all together,” Mittman said. “(Shabbat) is something I look forward to in the week. If it’s been a bad week or a good week, it’s always there.”