April 16, 2024
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Chabad of Binghamton’s Shabbat 2000 Exceeds Expectations

Shabbat 2000, Chabad of Binghamton’s largest event of the year, took place this past Friday, March 24, in the Binghamton University Event Center. Shabbat 2000 was a special Shabbat event with the goal of bringing 2,000 students together to experience the holiness of Shabbat. While campus-wide Shabbat dinners are held by campus Chabad houses all over the country, Binghamton University’s continues to be the largest, this year surpassing its 2,000-student attendance goal.

As the 2022-23 social major program coordinator for the student-led executive board of the Chabad of Binghamton University, I knew that Shabbat 2000 would be my most significant responsibility this year. It took many months of planning, many meetings, and many, many student volunteers, all guided every step of the way by our amazing shluchim, Chabad at Binghamton’s Goldie and Rabbi Sruly Ohana, but seemingly in the blink of an eye, it was the day of our annual publicity stunt, which traditionally takes place the Monday before the event. This year, we chose to order 1,000 balloons that said “Shabbat 2000” and hang them all over campus. Our team, along with some additional volunteers, woke up at 5:30 a.m. to get all the balloons blown up and hung before the 8:30 a.m. rush to classes. The stunt was very successful, as every single lamppost, bench, railing and building was covered with balloons, and got the entire campus talking about Shabbat 2000. That day, we got more than 300 sign-ups, and every day thereafter we got around 200 more.

Watching the extravagance of the event come together is an experience I will never forget. The day of Shabbat 2000, we had over 150 motivated student volunteers coming every hour to systematically set up the room. Miraculously, we finished erecting and setting all the tables by 2 p.m., and were able to focus on the ambiance, like setting up the candle-lighting tables, which was the key factor in transforming a campus gymnasium into a space to welcome Shabbat. When 5:30 p.m. came around, and the attendees started pouring in, I took a look around the busy room and smiled in disbelief and amazement: Even before the actual program began, I couldn’t believe what this team had accomplished.

The excitement was multiplied by the fact that the event was being livestreamed and we knew that our families and friends were in their homes, watching us prepare to bring in Shabbat, just as they were preparing to welcome Shabbat as well.

By 6 p.m., we began the program with speeches given by Rabbi Ohana and myself. After the welcoming speeches, we had a musical performance from the Y-studs that was accompanied by dancing and so much ruach. Half the room got up and started dancing the hora around the stage. Jews and non-Jews, observant and secular, everyone in that room had a mutual understanding that we were about to greet the holiness of Shabbat while celebrating Jewish culture together.

The student president of Chabad and I were given the honor of lighting the Shabbat candles on stage. Hundreds of young women flocked towards the beautiful, glowing tables of candles and matching flowers that volunteers had spent hours putting together. Women covered their eyes and prayed by the candle light, many for the first time. Then they embraced and said, “Good Shabbos,” or “Shabbat shalom.” As for me, when I lit the candles on stage, all I could manage beneath the emotion I felt was, “Thank you, Hashem.” Personally, welcoming Shabbat while lighting candles with all the women in the room was my favorite part.

At 7:03 p.m. on the dot, simultaneously, all music, mics, screens, phones and distractions were turned off, and the elegance and ambiance of the room automatically elevated. The livestream ended. The soup and food buffets opened, and the entire room sat down, as one, for an unforgettable Shabbat dinner.

And then, after months of planning and a few short hours, it was over. It truly happened so quickly, but I know I will never forget what we accomplished. We revived a pre-covid program by relying on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to feel spiritually uplifted by Shabbat. I will forever be impacted by my involvement in this event, and feel irrevocably grateful to the Chabad shluchim of Binghamton University for believing in us and giving us the resources we needed to see the event through to completion.

*Please note that all photos were taken before the start of Shabbat.

By Hannah Kirsch

 

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