Food and Fellowship at UW Hillel

Students and community members bond at traditional Shabbat dinners.

Students serve themselves food at a Hillel Shabbat dinner

The UW has the sixth-largest Jewish student population among public universities, with some 4,200 Jewish undergraduates. Bryce Richter

As you walk up Langdon Street, just before the row of classic fraternity and sorority houses, it’s hard to miss the modern architectural front of UW Hillel, a nonprofit foundation and Jewish student organization. And if you happen to walk past it on a Friday evening, you’ll notice a steady stream of students gathering to decompress over the weekly Shabbat dinner as they usher in Judaism’s Sabbath.

Roughly 150 UW students and community members from a variety of backgrounds attend each week. They’re greeted at the entrance by student leaders and Andrea Steinberger, who has been UW Hillel’s rabbi for more than 20 years.

The evening starts with services led by students for the Re- form and Conservative Jewish movements. Afterward, attendees gather at round tables to bond over a free catered dinner from Hillel’s kosher-certified restaurant, Adamah Neighborhood Table. Before the meal, Steinberger leads a Hebrew welcoming song and attendees join in for a traditional blessing of the wine and braided challah bread in the middle of each table. They each pull apart a piece of the bread, which releases the room into vibrant conversation.

Zoey Dlott x’21 celebrated Shabbat every week with her family while growing up in Virginia. After moving to campus, she soon yearned for the family tradition. “I felt like I was missing that community aspect of my college experience. But I found it at Hillel,” Dlott says. “Whenever I go to services, I see a bunch of people who are also looking for that sense of community.”

The UW has the sixth-largest Jewish student population among public universities, according to Hillel International, with some 4,200 Jewish undergraduates representing more than 10 percent of the total student population. UW Hillel was founded in 1924 as the second such foundation in the country. Hillel now has a presence at more than 550 universities.

“Shabbat has always been an opportunity for people to take a break,” says Steinberger, “to let go of some of their worries and obligations, and to reconnect with people.”

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