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Not your standard “SHAG”

Jewish students open up their homes to celebrate Shabbat

<p>Participants in Shabbat Around Grounds prepared food for the student-organized dinner.&nbsp;</p>

Participants in Shabbat Around Grounds prepared food for the student-organized dinner. 

The word “shag” usually refers to dancing, but for the Jewish community on Grounds, “shag” has a different meaning. It stands for Shabbat Around Grounds, a time when Jewish people from all denominations eat dinner in each other’s homes.

Second-year Engineering student Annie Goodstein has participated in Shabbat Around Grounds since coming to the University.

“SHAG is an event where Jewish students get together at friends' apartments across grounds to celebrate Shabbat in a casual and fun setting,” Goodstein said.

Jewish students throughout the University open their homes to fellow students and eat dinner as a group. Fourth-year Batten student Nicole Fratkin participated in SHAG by hosting a dinner in her home.

“It's great having events like this because it brings out people who don't normally participate in Jewish activities,” Fratkin said. “These events are essential because they create another community for people at U.Va. There is something about being with other Jewish people that makes you feel at home.”

For Goodstein, SHAG is an important event because it instills a sense of community.

“It is important to do things like SHAG to bring the Jewish community at U.Va. together because there aren't very many of us,” Goodstein said.

While there are not many practicing Jewish students at the University, the SHAG event had a stellar turnout. Just at Fratkin’s home alone, 30 students celebrated Shabbat together.

“Mostly all planning happened in the couple days before and all the cooking about three hours before,” Fratkin said.

While hosting a dinner can seem intimidating, the Brody Jewish Center, also known as Hillel, assists by cooking most of the food.

“Hillel asks you to come pick up the chicken and challah that afternoon,” Fratkin said. “Hillel also provides pieces of paper with the blessings on them.”

According to the Brody Jewish Center’s website, there are 1,800 Jewish students at the University. However, only a fraction of this number actually engages in Jewish activities on Grounds. One of the Hillel’s missions is to change this statistic.

“The Brody Jewish Center is engaging more Jewish students than ever before through a broad range of activities and creative initiatives for social enjoyment, Jewish learning and community outreach,” according to the website.

While Shabbat dinners are hosted weekly at the Brody Jewish Center through Hillel, as well as through Chabad — another Jewish community on Grounds — students still value the community SHAG brings once a semester.

“I think it's very special having events in people's homes,” Fratkin said. “It feels more like being at home and celebrating the holidays at home.”