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Dallas Jewish Week

Regional Hillels and friends share Shabbat


by Deborah Silverthorn

Special to DJW

More than 100 students and supporters joined to enjoy one of their own - University of Pennsylvania Hillel alum Joel Chasnoff - and to welcome the Sabbath and each other Friday, Feb. 7. "Joel Chasnoff was 110 percent funny," said Julia Aronson, a junior in her third year as SMU's Hillel president. "He absolutely reached everyone in the room with his humor and it made for a great night."

The Meadows Museum on the Southern Methodist University was the site of the annual Regional North Texas Hillel Shabbat. The region includes Brookhaven Community College, SMU, University of North Texas, University of Texas - Arlington and Texas Christian University. In addition, students from University of Oklahoma were in attendance.

"Shabbat Shalom," said Bruce Feldman, director of the SMU Hillel. "Tonight's service won't focus on a particular branch of Judaism but on our pride as Jews. This is a 'reformaservativadox' service," Feldman said of the service prepared by Hillel and rabbis Peter S. Berg and Mark Kaiserman of Temple Emanu-El. "Your pride is shown by the fact that you are here to share Shabbat together.

"Shabbat Shalom," said Bruce Feldman, director of the SMU Hillel. "Tonight's service won't focus on a particular branch of Judaism but on our pride as Jews. This is a 'reformaservativadox' service," Feldman said of the service prepared by Hillel and rabbis Peter S. Berg and Mark Kaiserman of Temple Emanu-El. "Your pride is shown by the fact that you are here to share Shabbat together.

"Taking part in Shabbat is a wonderful mitzvah and this kind of opportunity helps Jewish students connect with each other," said Feldman. "To meet and see new faces from the different campuses is a terrific way to meet friends." Feldman also delivered a d'var torah on the week's parsha "Terumah," which discusses the materials Jews were commanded to use to create the Tabernacle.

"Tonight's a positive experience for everyone," said Lori Pines, executive director of the Regional North Texas Hillel. "It's wonderful to share Shabbat in a new way and I hope it sparks an interest that makes everyone want to celebrate Shabbat every week in their own way."

Many students and guests participated in the services including Anna Frenkel, an SMU junior, who led the prayers over the Sabbath candles. After services, guests enjoyed dinner and dessert, provided by Simcha Kosher Catering and supervised by Michael Pines, from the VAAD Hakashrus (Dallas Kosher).

"From start to finish this was a special night," said Gary Weinstein, executive director of the Federation. "What a great site - our future, our young adults, sharing in Shabbat."

"The backing of the federation is great," said Brad Schweig, a UNT senior and Hillel Student Advisor. "The support for the students of North Texas is fantastic."

Hillel's mission is to maximize the number of Jews doing Jewish things with other Jews. With more than 80 percent of college age Jews, or almost 400,000 students, attending some form of institution of higher learning, Hillel as the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, with over 500 regional centers, tries to reach as many of those students as possible.

"We love being here," said Jessica Cohn, an Oklahoma student. "We have our own Shabbat programs each week but it's nice to make some new friends and share traditions."

The campuses of this region serve more than 1,200 Jewish students through the programs and activities of Hillel. In addition to counseling, support and direct programming on the campuses, and regional programs where students from the various schools can interact with each other, Hillel also provides opportunities for students to travel to Israel.

Eric Zak of UNT spent much of the entertainment portion of the evening laughing, clapping and cheering for comedian Joel Chasnoff. "He was soooo funny," said Zak. "We all 'got it' and he made fun of all of our Jewish social norms. The guy was great."

Chasnoff had every seat laughing out loud. "Who knew, in this very Christian Bible Belt part of the country, we'd find Hillel at Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University. Now, University of Oklahoma, with their 'OU' baseball caps that's a nice kosher school right there."

Chasnoff touched on many subjects from bar mitzvahs to travel, High Holiday services and the first Jewish president. "Won't it be great to get rid of that Easter roll thing and get a national afikoman hunt going?"

"The opportunity to bring students together, and to get them to see their Judaism differently then they might have, is something I love doing and I also consider it an honor."

"As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Hillel was absolutely central to my life, simply because it was a very comfortable place to be," said Chasnoff. "I met my roommates there, my best friends were from there and I remember Friday nights with four services going on. An early and late orthodox service, conservative and reform as well. It was totally cool to hang out there all night."

Upcoming programs include an Israel Fair, Israel Awareness Week and mock Pesach Seders at UNT and Holocaust Awareness week at TCU.

"One of the goals of Hillel is to link the Jewish identities of our students from their home to the campus," said Pines. "This kind of positive experience is why Hillel is so important."

For information about Regional Hillel of North Texas and the many campus activities, call (214) 789-5397. To follow his schedule or to purchase Chasnoff's first CD "Hanukah Guilt," featuring live stand-up, skits and songs, all with Jewish themes, visit his Web site at www.joelchasnoff.com. For students interested in activities at the University of Oklahoma Hillel, write to ouhillel@coxinet.net.


This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Friday, February 21, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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