Jewish Friday Night Tradition in College

Text: Every Friday evening at sundown, the informant and his friends, many who are non Jewish, gather at USC Hillel, the Jewish center, for a communal dinner. Before eating, they recite two traditional prayers: the Hamotzi over bread and the Kiddush over wine. The meal typically includes chicken, challah bread, wine, and vegetables. This dinner marks the beginning of Shabbat, which lasts from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. During Shabbat, observant Jews refrain from work-related activities, including turning lights on or off. The informant participates primarily in the dinners rather than observing the full Sabbath restrictions. This weekly observance commemorates God’s creation of the world in six days and His rest on the seventh, serving as a time of rest and rejuvenation for the community.

Context: The informant does this for fun and because it’s nice to not pay for food in college sometimes, as he puts it. He started doing it once he got to USC and started bringing his friends who weren’t Jewish because they also wanted free food and were allowed to go as well. He doesn’t participate because its too much work to stop everything for a day but he likes being around other Jewish people and sharing it with his friends

Analysis: The communal Shabbat dinners at USC Hillel highlight the adaptive and inclusive nature of cultural traditions within a modern context. These gatherings, which blend traditional Jewish prayers like the Hamotzi and Kiddush with the practicalities of college life, showcase how cultural practices can serve both religious and social functions. The inclusion of non-Jewish friends in these dinners emphasizes the role of folklore in building community and fostering intercultural understanding. While the informant participates more for social and economic reasons than religious observance, this adaptation of the Shabbat tradition underscores the flexible ways in which individuals can engage with cultural heritage. This practice not only honors the historical and spiritual significance of Shabbat but also adapts it to contemporary settings, making it accessible and relevant to a broader audience.