As the great Jewish philosopher Ahad Ha’am once said: "More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews." But how can we inspire a new generation of young adults to create their own Shabbat practice? And how do we cultivate a Shabbat community that “keeps” Jewish ASU students connected to one another, the people of Israel, and our Jewish heritage, while simultaneously embracing the modern world?
The answer: Authenticity and Ownership.
For me, authenticity means that we are always encouraging students to “come as they are,” no matter their background, faith, or level of observance. Whether our students come to learn, pray, or simply have a delicious Shabbat meal, we have a “no pressure, no guilt” policy. If they have to leave early, or if our staff needs to deliver dinner to a sick student, we want our students to know that we value their participation no matter what. I’m proud to say that we have already provided over 1,130 Shabbat meals this year, which enables us to continue to foster an authentic sense of spirituality, joy, and belonging.
The second key ingredient of Shabbat at Hillel is ownership. Each week 10 student leaders work together to discuss, plan and facilitate a unique Shabbat experience for their peers. This means that our student leaders transform at least one Friday night a month into a unique, out of the box experience that speaks to their own interests and passions. For example, this semester they “deconstructed” Shabbat for over 50 GCU students during Interfaith Harmony Week. Before Reproductive Rights Shabbat, they helped assemble 100 hygiene kits for a local women’s shelter. From leading prayers to giving sermons to playing in our Kabbalat Shabbat “Shabband,” our students are moving themselves from passive Shabbat participants into active leaders who are creating their own, authentic Jewish experience.
By promoting the values of ownership and authenticity, Hillel at ASU is empowering our students to keep shabbat in unique and meaningful ways so that the tradition will always keep them connected to the Jewish community for generations to come!
Hillel at ASU is proudly sponsored by the Center for Jewish Philanthropy of Greater Phoenix.