FT. COLLINS, CO — On Friday, Jewish and non-Jewish students gathered in the Lory Student Center’s West Ballroom to celebrate what many felt was the largest family dinner in Fort Collins.
They gathered for the fourth annual Shabbat dinner –– put on by CSU’s Chabad Jewish Student Alliance to celebrate Jewish culture, share Matzo ball soup and gefilte fish and enjoy each other’s company.
“We are not blood related, but there is a family mentality. It just feels like home,” said Michael Lichtbach, a junior mechanical engineering major and Chabad board member. “It is a place to just be. In college you have to force on a certain act, but here you can be who you are.”
In Jewish culture, Shabbat begins at sundown every Friday evening and lasts through Saturday.
But once a year, Chabad brings together the campus and Fort Collins community to celebrate with them. The group coined the gathering Shabbat 200 to represent the number in attendance.
It hopes to increase the number associated with event each year to reflect the number of attendees.
“We always aim high, but every year it is a struggle,” said Adam Avery, a senior health and exercise science major and president of Chabad, adding that the ultimate goal is to bring in 1,000 community members.
The free four-course, all kosher dinner that was organized and carried out by student volunteers began with a welcome from Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, faculty advisor to the Chabad organization.
Gorelik spoke about the “ongoing relevancy” that the 1,000-year-old Jewish tradition still holds for today’s busy and hectic lifestyle.
“(Shabbat) enables us to reconnect to what is important in our lives,” Gorelik said.
Mary Ontiveros, vice president of Diversity, who is not a member of the Jewish community, spoke to the crowd at the dinner. She said it was wonderful to see such a great turnout from not only the Jewish community, but from the non-Jewish community that wanted to experience the educational value of the event.
Jared Petsche, a non-Jewish 2008 graduate of CSU, also made the long journey from Denver in order to enjoy a free meal. Petsche has attended the event in past years and says that he likes helping out and learning more about the community.
“There is a sense of community and belonging, even if you aren’t Jewish,” Petsche said, “It’s contagious.”