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Ashley Faintuch


By Ashley Faintuch, April 5, 2011

Hillel Winnipeg ‘s Annual Interfaith Shabbat on March 25th at the Etz Chayim Synagogue attracted some 60-70 people in attendance, the majority from the non –Jewish  community.

The evening started with a tour and explanation of the synagogue, where  attendees had the opportunity to ask the tour guides – Hillel students – questions about Judaism, Jewish laws, practices or holidays and the synagogue and symbolisms within.

Following the tour, guests had the option of mingling with other guests, asking the Hillel representatives further questions, or attending services in the Chapel. Rabbi Lander, led a delightful Friday night service in a packed Chapel. In addition to his beautiful chanting and praying, the Rabbi was diligent to ensure all congregants understood the prayers, meanings and  explained  why we bow at certain times in the service.. Rabbi Lander concluded the service with boray pri hagafen, the blessing on the wine, and  explained that he says the blessing  at the synagogue incase people cannot, do not, or forget to say it at home before their meal--essentially as an extra precaution.

After services were done, everyone gathered in the main hall, for a delicious Shabbat meal---salad, chicken, rice, vegetables, and various pastries for dessert. Prior to the meal, guests had the option of participating in the ritual hand washing, as well as the blessing on the wine and challah. Hillel Director, Hart Jacob, along with student, Paul Meyerson, gave a brief overview of these activities.

At my table at dinner were three Jewish students, two ladies from the interfaith community and a professor of mine. We had a great time at dinner, although I found I was doing most of the talking. Between my professor and the two ladies there were a lot of questions for me to answer about Judaism, as well as the blessings and rituals. I was able to  thoroughly explained the hand washing (process and meaning), salting of the challah, and other traditional practices.

I could see guests were enjoying themselves and having great conversations- my table being no exception. At around 8:00, the conversation was still lively, but it was now time for an activity. The room was divided into above 30 years old and below, and from there split in half again. Every group was then given a list of Jewish values and was informed to choose the three values they felt were most important. However, all choices stayed within the group, and there was no discussion amongst groups. I would have been interested to hear and compare choices among groups, especially with such a multicultural group of participants.

I also think that next year it would be worth having a “ drash” at the event.  I think those in the interfaith community would  love to hear about the weeks parsha and a student interpretation as well as a relation to our shared values and current togetherness. In my view, think it could add to the experience and and also give guests something to go home thinking about – a lasting impression.

Overall, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and left with gained knowledge on Judaism and the practices of Shabbat.

Editor’s note :The Hillel Interfaith Shabbat attracted about  180 people last year, and I hope that next year that number can once again be reached.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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