Jewish Student Union honors culture with Shabbat dinner

Members of WKU’s Jewish Student Union hosted their first event — a Shabbat dinner in honor of the Jewish Sabbath — on Friday. Various students from different dominations came together to learn more about Jewish culture.

A dream of starting an organization for Jewish students on campus crossed the minds of four WKU students last year. At the beginning of the fall semester, they started moving the idea forward.

The group is now an official Jewish Student Union setting out to embrace a culture surrounding Judaism and educate non-Jewish people about their culture and religion.

Louisville junior and Union co-founder David Mauser said the members of the Union come from places where being Jewish was important to all of them.

Louisville junior Molly Kaviar, another co-founder, enjoyed getting together with friends to celebrate Jewish holidays and cook traditional Jewish food.

“We wish that there were more people that we could do things with,” Kaviar said.

They started the Union to have a place for people to come together and share the traditions.

“A lot of people don’t know anything about what it’s like to be Jewish and what our culture is like,” Mauser said. “We want to put ourselves out there and say, ‘We are here!’”

Last Friday afternoon, more than 40 people gathered in Garrett Hall for the Union’s first Shabbat dinner.

In Jewish culture, Shabbat is celebrated every Friday afternoon and represents a day of rest and spiritual enrichment, according to jewishvirtuallibrary.org.

Mauser said Shabbat is an opportunity for family and friends to get together, have dinner and reflect on their week. On Friday, there was a mix of Jewish as well as American foods, such as matzo ball soup, mashed potatoes and dried fruit.

“All the people who are involved in the club made separate dishes,” he said. “We did prayers over the wine, bread, candles and food. And also it was an anniversary of the first day of the Holocaust, so we had a little remembrance thing for that.”

Kaviar said she doesn’t think of herself as being very religious, but she enjoys doing a lot of cultural things related to Judaism.

“I like having dinners and celebrating holidays,” she said. “Here at Western are a lot of people who have never met a Jewish person.”

Right now, the group plans to host two to three Shabbat dinners per semester. Kaviar and some of the members have also been representing the Union at WKU’s Interfaith Youth Core.

Because the first Union event was successful, members of the club are already planning the next one in December.

Louisville senior Tracy Ingram, also a co-founder, said members are doing a lot of advertising around campus to help the organization grow and attract more people every day.

“We have a Facebook group, and most of our advertisement has come from word of mouth and posters,” she said. “We have flyers all over the buildings on campus.”

The group is planning a Hanukkah celebration around finals week.

“Anyone who wants to learn about Hanukkah and share this celebration is invited,” she said.