I spent most of freshman year at Harvard threatening to transfer. I quickly realized college wasn’t going to be a delightful blur of Solo cups, but rather, a lot of solitary lunches. I was tired of the awkward icebreakers, and all I desired was the comfort and familiarity I had enjoyed at home.
Luckily, I discovered a reprieve from my loneliness once a week at Hillel Shabbats. While my family is not shomer Shabbat, we lit candles, said blessings, and enjoyed a meal to celebrate the end of a stressful week. I never expected to attend Hillel Shabbats regularly, but they allowed me to relive a ritual from home. As a result, they became a core part of my social life.
The quintessential Shabbat experience at college was the tisch, which literally means “table” in Yiddish. Traditionally, a tischinvolves Jews gathering around their Rebbe at a table, hearing sermons, singing songs and enjoying food. At our tisches, we strayed far from that tradition. Men and women sat together, and in addition to schnapps, there was Smirnoff Ice. It was an odd combination of traditional spiritual joy and collegial spirits-induced boisterousness.