In commemoration of its 30th annual gathering, Chabad at Binghamton proudly held their Shabbat 2400 event, drawing thousands of students to the Events Center to enjoy singing, dancing, performances, dinner and the celebration of Jewish culture. They once again surpassed their goal of 2400 attendees, compared to last year’s goal of 2000.

The event began with a friendly and inclusive greeting, establishing a welcoming atmosphere for the upcoming celebrations. The event directors, coordinators and spearheads emphasized the significance of Shabbat 2400 in fostering unity and pride within the Jewish community, aiming to empower attendees to celebrate Shabbat with a sense of shared joy and strength.

The theme for this year’s event was “Stronger and Prouder,” reflecting the sentiments expressed by the event leaders.

Shabbat, also known as the Jewish Sabbath, occurs weekly, starting from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday, serving as a day of rest and reflection within the Jewish tradition. Haley Wilenzick, Shabbat 2400’s recruitment spearhead and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, explained that Shabbat 2400 works as a way to honor and expand the tradition of Shabbat dinners and to engage with the Binghamton community.

“Shabbat allows the Jewish community to come together, take a break from the busy week and spend time with friends and family,” Wilenzick wrote in an email. “Shabbat 2400 here at [Binghamton University] is a massive Shabbat dinner at the Events Center with the goal of bringing together 2,400 people.”

Tables were garnished with carrots, hummus, chips, salsa and pasta, as students enjoyed a performance from the Y-Studs, an all-male Jewish a capella group. They inspired the crowd to rise from their seats and sing and dance with one another amid this celebration. Recognition and appreciation was given to those who contributed to the event, followed by the announcing of the winner of a free trip to Israel that was given to one attendee.

When asked what makes this Shabbat 2400 different from previous ones, Avi Gordon, Shabbat 2400 logistics spearhead and freshman majoring in business administration, spoke about the goal of encouraging people of Jewish faith to embrace their religion.

“This has been a particularly hard year on campus for Jews with rising antisemitism and anti-Zionist sentiment, so this was an important year for encouraging everyone to embrace their Judaism in whatever way feels the most comfortable,” Gordon wrote in an email. “Everyone has a place in Judaism, and I think more and more people are seeing that. It might not be so easy to approach a synagogue, so this event is a great way to get acquainted with Judaism in a more general way.”

The tradition of this event started 30 years ago in BU as Shabbat 1000, and has since expanded to several other campuses. Michal Levine, the event’s major programs coordinator and a junior majoring in Judaic studies, spoke about the impact that this event has had on the Jewish community, even outside of Binghamton.

“The original idea for Shabbat 1000 was the desire to create a positive Jewish experience for everyone on campus,” Levine wrote in an email. “Now, over 150 campuses have their own mega Shabbat, and it all started here at Chabad of [BU] 30 years ago. The goal of Shabbat 2400 is to show that we are not alone. Show the power of Shabbat and come together on the biggest scale that we can at [BU].”

As students continued welcoming the spirit of Shabbat, the “lighting of the torch” took place and women gathered around the stage to light candles, symbolizing the start of Shabbat. Kiddush, a ceremony of prayer and blessings then took place, with students filling their cups with grape juice, followed by hamotzi, the hand-washing ritual. Dinner was then served, a long-awaited feast consisting of chicken, apple kugel, potato kugel, orzo, salad and chicken soup, followed by a buffet dessert.

Although the goal was to celebrate the Jewish faith and community, Shabbat 2400 welcomed students and people of all religious backgrounds. The desire to promote inclusivity and share Jewish traditions with students, Jewish and non-Jewish, embodies the spirit of Shabbat.

Event organizers for Shabbat 2400 included Levine, Gordon, Wilenzick and Hannah Kirsch, PR spearhead for the event and a senior majoring in psychology. Sam Weingard, president of Chabad and a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, Evan Wortman, vice president of Chabad and a junior majoring in computer engineering and Goldie Ohana, director of programming contributed to the success of the event as well.

The Shabbat 2400 event at BU was a display of community spirit and religious pride, truly capturing the essence of “Stronger and Prouder.” As the evening’s festivities concluded, the sense of unity and inclusivity lingered in the air, a testament to the event’s success in not only reaching but surpassing its attendance goals and in strengthening the bonds within and beyond the Jewish community.

Rabbi Yisroel Ohana, of Chabad at BU, expanded on this idea, explaining the welcoming nature of the Jewish community.

“Judaism is not just a religion — it’s a family,” Ohana wrote in an email. “We believe that no matter where you are from, or how much you know, or how traditional you are or aren’t, you are one.”

Editor’s Note (4/11/24): This article was updated to include a list of event organizers.