Stetson Hillel Gathers for Dinner for Yom Kippur


         A chorus of “ooooh”’s and even one “it’s a big boy!” erupted from the group of Yom Kippur attendees  when a huge loaf of challah bread was set down on the table. Unlike the usual braided style of the traditional bread eaten at Shabbat dinners and other major Jewish holidays, this loaf had a swirl pattern at the top.

         As everybody gathered, the feeling in the room became comfortable and familiar, and the whole room seemed at peace. Some wore dresses or suits, some wore jeans, but yarmulke or not, all in attendance were glad to be there to celebrate Yom Kippur. This is the Jewish holiday of atonement, celebrated 10 days after the start of the High Holidays on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  

Natalie Bergeron

         Summed up well by the Hillel director Sam Friedman, “Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish year. It signifies the end of the days of atonement, or days of awe as we call them, which is better to say than ‘days of atonement’,” he said. “It sort of solidifies the time when we finish reflecting on the previous year, fixing things that we may have done wrong, and prep ourselves for the one that’s coming.” This holiday signifies confessions of wrongdoing over the past year and ends with prayer and a break fast, when all can eat after their day of religious fasting. The group lit the candles and prayed over them and then prayed over the challah and then it was time for food. A massive buffet was laid out, all kosher food, just as Shabbat dinners on Friday nights with Hillel are. The group spoke and ate at tables, all joking and feeling good. The more time passed and the more connections made, the less and less challah there was on the table. At the end of dinner, the group was full and happy.

         As well as events like Yom Kippur, Hillel hosts a Shabbat dinner every Friday night, a pluralistic experience for students to gather in Allen Hall and eat together. Sam Friedman is the man who got Hillel up and running at Stetson University. He used to run Jewish organization events at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and visit Stetson to help run special holiday events, and then in the fall of 2018, he officially switched over to Stetson to run Hillel.


Natalie Bergeron



“When I first got to Stetson I was saying that if we did nothing else, we were going to do meals every Friday,” Friedman said.




         “I was met with a lot of skepticism. And I think that we’ve reached the point now to where it’s sort of expected. “The community meets on Fridays and everything else we do is sort of based around that, so if you come to Friday that’s when you learn about things like this, it’s when you learn about the cleanup that we did on Sunday [at Lake Beresford]. It’s nice to know that there’s a consistent opportunity for Jews to come together and for the rest of the community to come together and share a meal and a good time.”

         Lana Kolchinsky (’22), who is the president of Hillel, says the religious group affirms her faith in a very meaningful way. “Judaism is very important to me and it’s really important that I have a community on campus that I can celebrate various Jewish holidays with, and express my Judaism in the way I want to and there’s a lot of freedom in that that I see in this community,” Kolchinsky said. “It plays a really big part of my life.” She has noticed more and more people attending Friday Shabbat dinners and the atmosphere growing brighter over her past year being on campus.

         When asked what she loves about Hillel, Kolchinsky responded, “I love that everyone is free to express their Judaism in the way they want to. That’s really important to me because everyone has a different way of being Jewish and expressing their Judaism, and it’s important to have an outlet and a place that you can do that weekly on campus or at any time.”

         Hillel Shabbat dinners happen at 6 p.m. in Allen Hall every Friday, and all are welcome to come and celebrate Judaism together!