Welcoming the Georgetown Community to Shabbat

By Rabbi Daniel Schaefer, Interim Director for Jewish Life

Rabbi Daniel Schaefer leading Shabbat in Riggs Library. (Photo by Leslie E. Kossoff/LK Photos)

One of my favorite aspects of celebrating Shabbat at Georgetown is that we get to welcome guests every Friday night for services and dinner. Some students come to be with their Jewish friends, want to experience Shabbat for the first time, or need to write a reflection paper for their Problem of God class. Regardless of what brings them, they all add to the celebration of Shabbat and enable us to live out one of the most important values in Judaism, hachnasat orchim or being welcoming to guests. 

Tradition teaches that Abraham’s tent was open on all sides to be welcoming to visitors and we try live out that same sense of hospitality when guests join us in Makom. Of course, it also feels good to be welcomed with openness and hospitality.

For many in the Jewish community, one of the highlights of this year was being hosted by President DeGioia for Shabbat services in Riggs Library and dinner in Copley Formal Lounge. I loved leading Shabbat services in Riggs Library, one of the most beautiful spaces on campus. Praying and singing in Hebrew in that historic place felt momentous.

It was also a true enactment of the principle of hiddur mitzvah, or enhancing a mitzvah. While on it’s own, Shabbat is special and sacred, there are always ways to elevate the experience of it. This Shabbat brought together a large part of the Jewish community and students dressed up in suits and dresses, we were joined by honored guests from the faculty and administration, and our music was enhanced by guitar, violin, and drums. 

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia addresses attendees at the Shabbat dinner on Friday, March 17, 2023, in Copley Formal Lounge. (Photo by Leslie E. Kossoff/LK Photos

At dinner, President DeGioia (pictured above) and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, shared moving words on the importance of the Jewish community at Georgetown and the role of interreligious dialogue in creating connections across different communities. Leaders of the Jewish Student Association (JSA) introduced and led the blessings and we all shared a delicious kosher Shabbat dinner. 

It was truly a special experience of being welcomed and celebrated. As important as it is to create Jewish spaces on campus, it is perhaps more important to know that we are welcome to be fully and proudly Jewish in all spaces on campus. The hospitality of President DeGioia and his staff and the thought and hard work of our student leaders created a truly beautifully evening and a deeper sense of a Jewish home at Georgetown.