CSU’s Jewish community gathers again to celebrate Shabbat 200

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(Graphic Illustration by Charles Cohen | The Collegian)

Portia Cook, News Reporter

Family, friends, food and the echoing sounds of laughter found their way back to Colorado State University as the 14th annual Shabbat 200 event kicked off on the evening of Feb. 4.  

After the event was postponed in 202o and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chabad Jewish Student Organization, with the approval of CSU’s Pandemic Preparedness Team, welcomed an estimated 200 guests on Friday. Shabbat 200 promised a place of gathering free from the regular labors of everyday life, creating a welcoming space to spend time with family and friends.   

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“We need more opportunities to hug our children, spouses and friends and engage in true communication without constant interruptions,” read a flyer at the event from the Chabad Jewish Student Organization.

After two long years, the Shabbat 200 annual event was able to offer just that again: the time and space needed for Jewish community members to step away from the chaos of life and catch their breath alongside loved ones.  

Shabbat, also known as Shabbos or the Sabbath, is a day of rest and celebration that begins on Friday at sunset and ends on the following evening after nightfall, according to Chabad.org. 

The event was free and open to all students, staff and friends and embraced Jewish and non-Jewish community members alike.

Chabad President Chaia Geltser said her role as the president is not only to bring students together — especially Jewish students who may feel isolated after transitioning from larger Jewish communities at home to a smaller Jewish community within CSU — but also to engage and include everyone.   

Regarding the importance of the event being inclusive to those who do not identify as Jewish, Geltser said she knows how dangerous ignorance and lack of knowledge can be.  

Data published in a 2021 report titled “The State of Antisemitism in America” conducted by the American Jewish Committee shows one in four Jews in the United States was a target of antisemitism that year.

“We really hope to make this an educational event for everyone — Jews and non-Jews — because it is so important to understand your neighbors,” Geltser said. “It is so important to hear their stories and hear where they are coming from.”

The event included discussions surrounding Jewish food, traditions, values, beliefs and traditional Jewish songs like “Shalom Aleichem,” which means “peace be upon you,” led by CSU adjunct instructor and Chabad Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik.   

Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi President Miles Saitz launched the event with an introduction of Kiddush, a prayer of consecration and distinction between the days of the week and the holy day of Shabbat.

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The importance of Shabbat is coming together to break bread with the understanding that we as human beings need to be able to share that sustenance both for our bodies and for our souls, and that is what we are here to do tonight- Benjamin Withers, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at CSU

Following Kiddush, Jewish sorority Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi President Molly Gillman introduced Netilat Yadayim, a hand-washing ritual done in preparation for eating a meal. 

The evening continued with guests indulging in a four-course, traditionally prepared Shabbat meal, including dishes like challah, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, chicken and rugelach. 

Benjamin Withers, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at CSU, took the place of President Joyce McConnell, who he said wanted so badly to be at the Shabbat 200 event but could not be in attendance due to family circumstances.   

Withers said he understands the importance of the Jewish community gathering again after two years apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“The importance of Shabbat is coming together to break bread with the understanding that we as human beings need to be able to share that sustenance both for our bodies and for our souls, and that is what we are here to do tonight,” Withers said.  

CSU alumnus Ed Warner, an accomplished scientist, conservationist, philanthropist and donor to the Warner College of Natural Resources, was the guest of honor at the event. Warner said his main goal as the guest of honor was to discuss why his generation of Jewish children were successful while passing on advice to the current generation.

“I hope that they are inspired by my own particular story and to reassess how they conduct themselves for the rest of their lives,” Warner said.  

This year’s Shabbat 200 event was co-sponsored by the Residence Hall Association, the Associated Students of Colorado State University, the Lory Student Center and Coca-Cola.  

The event was held in loving memory of CSU students Sascha Franzel and Jeri Reisman, Gorelik said.  

Chabad of Northern Colorado offers educational tools to help the public learn more about Shabbat 200, the Jewish community in Northern Colorado and student events. 

Reach Portia Cook at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @csucollegian.