At 6 p.m. on Friday, May 2nd, RIT Jewish community organization
Hillel hosted its weekly service in the Allen Memorial Chapel.
Normally, this happens in Hillel House, which is located in the
dorm-side tunnels under Colby Hall, but for this occasion, larger numbers
were expected. The Shabbat service, which celebrates the weekly
day of rest, featured traditional songs and prayers, which were aimed
at introducing and opening the Jewish community to any interested RIT
students or faculty.
A line from the opening song, titled Hineh Mah Tov (Psalm 133:1) reads,
“How good and pleasant it is for all of us to dwell together in this community!”
Chaplain Jennifer Gravitz stated at the start of the service.
“It’s a delight to see everyone. I think the best way to pray is from the
heart, and Shabbat is such a special day. We recreate this celebration
[of faith] every Friday.”
Second year Illustration major Blaire Moskowitz noted, “We can’t do any
work today since the Sabbath is the traditional day of rest.” The remainder
of the service continued with more songs and the reading of prayers,
some of which encouraging worshipers to say prayers to loved ones whom
they might have lost or someone they are concerned about.
Sonny Bleicher, a fourth year Environmental Science major, commented
on the Shabbat service, its history, and why this particular service
was unique: “There’s a whole ritual, which started about 400 years after
Jesus died in Galilean Israel, where some rabbis would dress in white
robes, running in the fields and singing songs to welcome the Sabbath in.
Later [ Jewish people] took all those songs and compiled them into
a service which makes it much more simple and focused on community
building, being together, and singing and dancing together.
It’s very nice.”
Bleicher added, “Today’s idea was to invite the RIT community to see
what we’re doing and what Judaism is all about. It was also good to bring
in the Jewish faculty. On most campuses, the Jewish faculty is very
involved. However, on this campus, many of them are not. It’s kind of
a call out for the community where we’re saying, ‘Join us,’ we’re looking for
Following the service, dinner was served. Preceding the meal was the
series of traditional blessings. First was the blessing over the wine,
known as the Kiddush, followed by the ritual washing of hands and,
lastly, Ha’motzi, grace before the meal. The meal consisted of traditional
Jewish home-cooked foods such as challah, a special braided bread,
and brisket. The meal concluded with Birkat Ha’Mazon, grace after the
meal. This was followed by Shira which means “to sing” in Hebrew.
Rebecca Strauss, a junior fine arts major and an active member of Hillel,
commented: “It’s a part of my identity, and it’s exciting to share it
with people I know.”