For the attendees of this past week’s Shabbat dinner hosted by Chabad at UCLA, the Russian-themed Shabbat was a welcomed comfort, especially at a time when, for many college students,
stress has increased with midterms. The theme of Russian Shabbat not only extended to the vast
arrays of Russian dishes but also to the Shabbat atmosphere of friendship and
camaraderie that flourished throughout the evening. Rabbi Dovid Gurevich opened the evening by asking each individual to introduce him or herself and to express what had inspired him or her during that week. Rabbi Gurevich’s words seemed to be an homage to the philosophy-laden toasts of
Russian tradition. Yet not only did the ‘mini-toasts’ of each student allow for the expression of
ideas and experiences, it also opened doors to later conversations throughout
Of the people present at Russian Shabbat, many flocked to Chabad for the first time, driven by a nostalgia for their Russian cuisine and unique heritage. Several of these people found the Chabad atmosphere very comforting and reminiscent of their own homes. Students were touched by several of the stories presented during the mini-toasts earlier in the evening. “I heard your story about the person returning the wallet. It gave me hope,” one guest said to another across the table. It was evident that many of the guests continued to talk well into the night and seemed to part ways as new friends rather than as mere acquaintances.
Russian Shabbat boasted a wide variety of Russian delicacies — from the Olivier salad (made with diced boiled potatoes, vegetables, eggs, and chicken, all in a mayonnaise dressing), to delicious herring and pirozhki (meat pastries made with croissant-like bread). Two dishes in particular stood out: Napoleon cake, layered with crème and topped with smooth, rich chocolate; and irresistible cupcakes, filled with lemon custard and topped with sweet chocolate frosting. The great food, prepared by Rebbetzin Elisa Gurevich, kept conversations going around the tables and laughter flowing loudly through the rooms. Russian Shabbat was testimony to Chabad’s fulfillment of its motto — it is indeed “every Jew’s home away from home.”
For more information about Chabad’s themed Shabbat dinners, contact Rabbi Gurevich at [email protected].