The Pegasus Ballroom was transformed into an elegant, intimate place where hundreds of students, faculty and staff members came together to celebrate Shabbat 1000 on Friday, April 1. For its fourth consecutive year, the traditional Shabbat dinner, hosted by Chabad at UCF, expected to reach 1000 attendees where Jewish traditions were celebrated with live music, dinner and traditional customs.
Rabbi Chaim Lipskier, executive director of Chabad at UCF, explained that the holy day of Shabbat is a day to disengage from the daily grind of the week and to be with family and friends.
“The Jewish day starts at night, so Friday night is the holy day of Shabbat," Rabbi Lipskier explained. "Typically, Jewish people around the world go to synagogue [on] Friday night and pray with the community, and then go home and have a festive dinner with their family. It’s a Jewish commandment not to work on the Shabbat; we don’t drive, or use electricity. It’s a day we spend in prayer, in celebration and with family.”
Preparation for this event started last year, taking almost six months and around 50 volunteers for it to come alive.
“This is an event that many students look forward to all year; there’s a lot of excitement around it,” Rabbi Lipskier said.
Aviel Yashar, president of Chabad at UCF, said the event wasn’t only for Jews, but for anyone who was interested.
“It’s a huge cultural experience," Yashar said. "It’s informative [and] it’s a great way to meet other people and network. It’s a lot more than just the religious aspect."
Some students were excited about dinner, while others such as Yashar were excited for the impact of this event.
“It’s important for people to have union, and events like this really harvest that,” Yashar said. “It’s an incredible thing for all the Jews to get together and celebrate our heritage.”
Isabel Voskoboynik, an economics freshman, was a first-time attendee. She said she was excited to see UCF had Jewish events, such as Shabbat 1000.
Before the Shabbat dinner, Israeli musician Gilad Segev performed live. His performance was followed by speeches where sponsors were thanked, volunteers recognized and the Shabbat’s meaning commemorated.
All the tables had candles for women to light and to welcome prosperity and light into their lives, their families’ and their community.
Rivkie Lipskier, Rabbi Chaim Lipskier's wife, explained why the candle lighting tradition is so special and important.
“Candles are very similar to your soul," she said. "With most physical things, the more you give, the less you have. You can take a flame and light hundreds of candles with it. Each candle gives warmth and light into a room, into life — into whatever it [lights].
Every single one of us have a soul, it’s like a fire [with] it’s warmth and it’s yearning to connect to something higher, to godliness ... it’s always searching to connect to a higher source, so does your soul. It’s always trying to connect to a higher source, to godliness and Shabbat is the soul of the week.”
After the ritual, people washed their hands and returned to their tables to break bread and share their Shabbat meal.
Natalia Baqueiro is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.