Every Friday evening, as sunset approaches, Tamar Feigenbaum (DC’14) does what’s unthinkable for typical college students. She turns off her smartphone and keeps it off until after dark on Saturday. She does so for the Jewish Sabbath, during which observant Jews must refrain from all creative types of work such as cooking, driving, and using electronics, including phones.
During the weekly Jewish observance, she prays, eats already-prepared festive meals, and spends time with friends. Since enrolling at Carnegie Mellon in the fall of 2010, she’s also celebrated Shabbat with Chabad, an international organization that offers traditional meals and services for students on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. She has been a regular at Chabad’s Friday night dinners, hosted in the home of Rabbi Shlomo and Chani Silverman a few blocks from campus, often inviting friends to go with her, too.
Last spring, classmate Julie Rekant (E’14) joined her frequently. By the time summer rolled around, Rekant was curious about what it would be like to observe Shabbat for the full 25 hours, so she visited Feigenbaum’s family in West Hartford, Conn.
“At my house, we’re not very observant,” says Rekant, from South Brunswick, N.J.
During the Shabbat she spent with the Feigenbaums, Rekant kept all the family’s traditions, and the experience seemed to awaken her spiritually from her Hebrew School days. It wasn’t lost on Feigenbaum that all this evolved from an initial Shabbat dinner invitation.
That helped prompt Feigenbaum to get involved with the organization Heart to Heart, which gives college students stipends to host Shabbat meals in their dorm rooms or apartments. “Organizations can be intimidating,” says Feigenbaum. She realizes when she invites friends to go to Chabad, they might be hesitant to go. “But if I said, ‘Do you want to come to a Friday night dinner I’m having?’ there’s nothing scary about going to dinner at your friend’s house.”
In September, Feigenbaum hosted 11 guests at a Heart to Heart Shabbat in her Doherty Apartments suite. Some she knew well, and others were recent acquaintances. With help from Rekant and others, she baked challah—the golden, braided bread over which a Hebrew blessing is said at the beginning of the meal. After a few opening prayers, all dined on a meal of Shabbat staples, such as chicken soup and chicken schnitzel. Before long, neighbors stopped by to see what was happening, or to grab dessert. They all ate and talked until late in the evening.
—Susan Jacobs Jablow