Last Friday, Cornerstone Main Space was packed with faculty and students dressed in many versions of the Colorado College version of formal attire. Students scavenged for their tickets to be let into the incredibly anticipated Passover Seder. CC Hillel, the Jewish student organization at CC, coordinates Passover, which, along with all of the other events Hillel runs, is not closed off to non-Jewish students; a student of any faith is welcome to attend.
It is great that non-Jewish students at CC are interested in events like Shabbat and Passover, events outside of their typical community. However, it remains important that when a student attends any event on campus outside of their own cultural realm, they attend with some understanding of what they are participating in, along with a willingness to engage.
Every Friday night, Shabbat dinner is held at the Interfaith House. While I am Jewish, I do not attend Shabbat regularly. I have non-Jewish friends who attend Shabbat more regularly than I do because they think it is fun. To a degree, that is amazing. CC students are extending their typical cultural bubble to a territory unfamiliar to them. However, many students simply attend Shabbat for the free wine and student-cooked meal. I understand the desire for free food and wine, yet Shabbat means a lot to some students in attendance.
Shabbat is the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, and it is regarded as a holy day in the Jewish calendar. Shabbat is meant as a time for Jews to cease working in order to solely concentrate on the spiritual aspects of life. Obviously, a non-Jewish student is not expected to begin practicing Judaism simply due to attending Shabbat; but I do believe they should at least know the nature of what they are attending or engage in the ritualistic process of the night and not simply stare at their phone while the candles are being lit.
Similarly, during Passover last Friday, many of my non-Jewish friends told me they heard news of the many bottles of free wine and a catered meal, and they immediately had an interest in attending Passover. Upon their arrival, they were greeted with a Seder book on their seats, and students realized Passover actually does have a ritualistic practice to it.
Passover is not simply wine and food; it is the holiday in which Jews commemorate their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt and their freedom as a nation. Additionally, Passover is not just the one day it is celebrated in Cornerstone; Passover is eight days long. While much of the context for Passover’s history is explained throughout the Seder, I am not sure the majority of students pay attention once the Seder begins.
Obviously students should continue to engage with communities they are not immediately associated with; it allows us all to learn more about our world. Still, it is important that students work to understand some context for these events that have a great significance to many students who identify with Judaism.
This does not only apply to the Jewish community at CC. Free Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, and Pita Pit are commonly advertised around campus in order to entice students to attend discussions, speakers, and events. These events are often centered around a specific cultural group. Whether it is an event that speaks about a race, religion, or a gender different than the one a student identifies as, it is important that students in attendance eat their food while actively engaging and working to understand these events.