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UNH organization showcases Jewish culture by celebrating Shabbat

Each organization in the UNH Diversity Support Coalition held events to celebrate and raise awareness for all the various cultural traditions that make up UNH, as part of UNH’s Diversity Week. UNH Hillel, the student Jewish organization on campus, held a free dinner at the Waysmeet Center on Friday March 24, in celebration of Shabbat.

“Shabbat is the day of rest in the Jewish religion, and it takes place every Friday night at sundown to Saturday night at sundown. You usually would be in temple praying in the morning,” Hillel president and sophomore social work major Faye DiBella said. “So we kind of try and hold a dinner once a semester to celebrate. But it does happen weekly.”

The dinner began with a lighting of the Shabbat candles by DiBella, as it is customary in the Jewish faith for women and children to perform this part of the ceremony.

“For those of you who don’t know the practice, you light the candles, you wave your hands around them three times, and then you cover your eyes and say the blessing,” DiBella said.

The lighting was followed by a blessing and reading from the Torah in both Hebrew and English. After the blessings were completed, a traditional Jewish dinner was served.

“So there’s always challah. Challah is braided bread that almost all Jewish people eat, especially on the holidays and especially around Shabbat,” DiBella said. “There’s not a ton of foods that are specifically for Shabbat.” Chicken was served along with an Israeli salad made up of tomato and cucumbers, cuscus and a side of hummus.

The Waysmeet Center was an ideal location to hold the Shabbat dinner, given that the organization has had a connection with UNH Hillel for 20 years.

“We’re a community center that does a bunch of different things,” Chaplain and executive director of the Waysmeet Center Larry Brickner-Wood said. “One is trying to build common ground amongst folks of all different social identities and spiritual traditions and ways of being in the world. And we do that through the residential community that we have here. We’ve had all kinds of groups, our building is probably used every night by someone.”

Continuing the theme of Diversity week, Hillel followed the dinner by holding an event with the UNH Black Student Union (BSU) and Mosaico at 7:30 p.m. in the MUB.

“And we’re doing an hour of dance, show-casing and teaching dances from each of our cultures,” DiBella said prior to the second event.

Hillel holds its meetings in MUB Room 145 every Tuesday at 6 p.m.

“We are really culturally Jewish, but we welcome all forms, even if people aren’t Jewish,” DiBella said.

“I’m just hoping that people come and enjoy the food and the community and really get a chance to think about Shabbat and how they can practice in their own ways,” DiBella said. “Shabbat does not have to be celebrated with no work and no electricity. It really can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.”

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