Shabbat 1000 dinner supports and shows solidarity for Jewish student community
In light of the recent wave of bomb threats that have been phoned into Jewish community centers, Carnegie Mellon hosted Shabbat 1000, a service and dinner open to the public, with several Pittsburgh government and university officials in attendance in a show of solidarity.
Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest, observed from sundown on Friday night to nightfall on Saturday evening. For the Jewish community, it is a time to take a break from work or school at the end of a week for religious observance, which usually consists of gathering in a synagogue or home for festive meals.
Dignitaries in attendance included Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh, Pennsylvania state representative Dan Frankel, Pittsburgh mayor William Peduto, and county executive Rich Fitzgerald, among others. Many attendees wore maroon T-shirts saying Shabbat 1000 and matching maroon kippot.
There was already a palpable party atmosphere in the air even before the commencement of the main program. Visitors greeted friends with enthusiasm and smiles, and there was rarely a shortage of people who wanted to talk to the dignitaries. Cameras were busily snapping group pictures of those in attendance.
The main event started with an announcer greeting everyone with “Shabbat Shalom”, Hebrew for “Sabbath of Peace”. The evening’s themes encompassed unity, family, community, and togetherness.
Since electronics are not used on Shabbat, the speeches were projected by the speakers from the podium at one end of the room. One of the announcers, whose day job is being a psychiatrist, said that Shabbat 1000 was the “largest group that’s ever come together for group therapy.”
The seven Pittsburgh-area schools that were represented at the dinner were then recognized publicly as the announcer read their names and some distinguishing facts about the school. The announcer had hidden a Scottish highland dress under his long overcoat, and revealed the dress to the cheering crowd as he recognized Carnegie Mellon as the host.
The next speaker was county executive Rich Fitzgerald, who welcomed the attendees and remarked that he was proud of the community for being able to come together during a time when the country often seems more polarized than ever.
Mayor Peduto spoke next on the theme of unity. He said that even though there is so much in our discourse today about what divides us, “in Pittsburgh, we build bridges, not walls,” in a not-so-subtle jab at the pledge by President Trump to build a border wall. He also emphasized that nothing is more powerful than compassion. Carnegie Mellon’s President Suresh also touched on a similar theme, noting that the Shabbat dinner celebrates peace and unity.
The speeches were followed by group singing and blessing rituals, after which dinner commenced. There was another short speech from one of the announcers about a certain section of the Torah, the Jewish holy text, that discusses the process of temple building. He then extended the metaphor to say that we ourselves are like temples in that we all have unique qualities and should make temples in our body by being peaceful, loving, and caring.
While discussing unity and solidarity — and having a dinner in honor of those themes — sounds good, meaningful action is necessary to bring the themes into the real world. In an interview with The Tartan, Mayor Peduto discussed the Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative started in 2015. This particular initiative reaches out to immigrants and refugees in the Pittsburgh area. More recently, it has become more focused on reaching out to the Latino and Muslim communities. He assured that Pittsburgh police will not act as immigration enforcement agents and will not work with ICE unless there is a criminal arrest warrant for a person. Mayor Peduto wants minority communities to know that Pittsburgh is here to help them.