On Friday night, over 100 guests gathered for a Shabbat dinner in the party room of the Old SUB.
The event was spearheaded by Rabbi Chalom Loeub and his wife, Mrs. Esti Loeub, who runs the Chabad Jewish Student Centre on campus.
For those who are unfamiliar, Rabbi Loeub explained that Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath — a day of rest that begins on Friday evening and closes on Saturday night. For those 25 hours, observers refrain from doing any work to focus on rest and reflection.
“It’s solely centred around being together with family and being involved with the services at synagogue. It’s more of a day to really connect with spirituality and let go of all the mundane of the week,” he said. “Shabbat, you call it an ‘island in time.’ You’re taking in everything to relax and you move on to the next week recharged.”
As part of the Chabad Centre’s weekly programming, the Loeubs host Shabbat dinner every Friday night with a recurring crowd of about 15 to 25 people. This year, Rabbi Loeub wanted to bring Shabbat dinner to as many students as possible and took 100 guests as his initial benchmark. Although the event coincided with the UBC’s centennial year, it was unaffiliated with any particular holiday or anniversary.
Since the Loeubs were increasing their usual dinner numbers fourfold, they needed some extra hands on deck. The event was hosted in partnership with the Hillel BC Society, the UBC Jewish Students’ Association, the Progressive Jewish Alliance UBC, Chabad of Richmond and UBC Israel on Campus.
“It’s a joint venture. We’re really unifying Jews of all backgrounds, no matter what background it is. Whether you’re more observant, less observant, more progressive [or] less, left wing, right wing, centre — it doesn’t matter. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. We’re just gonna sit together and enjoy one of the loveliest traditions we have,” said Rabbi Loeub.
During the event, guests took part in an informal evening service and a traditional prayer over wine. All 100-plus guests then trooped over to the catering kitchen for a ritual washing of hands, followed by bread, a fish course, an entrée and dessert.
The meal was prepared by Café Forty One, which provides catering for all the Chabad houses in British Columbia. Guests enjoyed a variety of dips and appetizers, and a main course of roasted chicken. On the side, there were enough carbohydrates to fuel a triathlon — potatoes, rice, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and an almost unlimited supply of challah bread.
Although the night was primarily targeted at Jewish students, Rabbi Loeub made a point of welcoming all guests, regardless of their religious background.
“It’s university — you want [students] to be educated about what Jews are about. You can’t make it exclusive — you want to make sure that anyone and everyone can be welcome and feel welcome,” he said. “Especially with what the world is going through now, so much hate that’s going on in the world, a little bit of love can go a long way.”