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PSS Fall '09 - From Theory to Practice

Hill & Quad

Jewish Life at HWS

by Caitlyn Pryde Mills

Students at the Abbe Center for Jewish Life take part in the Rosh Hashanah dinner.

Students at the Abbe Center for Jewish Life take part in the
Rosh Hashanah dinner.

Two years ago, a generous gift from Trustee Richard Abbe '92 and his wife Merav made it possible to transform 764 South Main Street into the beautiful Abbe Center for Jewish Life, which serves as both a residence hall and the center of Jewish Life on campus.

In the short time since the Abbe Center for Jewish Life has opened, participation in Jewish life on campus has grown steadily, from attendance at Friday night Shabbat dinners to the annual Hanukkah party with local youth.

"Our first year with the Abbe Center was a learning year" says Abbe Center for Jewish Life Director and Hillel Adviser Lorinda Weinstock P'01.

Abbe Center for Jewish Life Director Lorinda Weinstock breaking bread during a Shabbat Dinner.

Abbe Center for Jewish Life Director
Lorinda Weinstock breaking bread during
a Shabbat Dinner.

In addition to housing students, the Abbe Center for Jewish Life serves as an educational space.

In addition to housing students, the
Abbe Center for Jewish Life serves as
an educational space.

Taking part in the the Rosh Hashanah tradition of dipping apples into honey.

Taking part in the the Rosh Hashanah
tradition of dipping apples into honey.

The Wasserman Garden of Quiet Repose.

The Wasserman Garden of Quiet Repose.

The Abbe Center currently hosts the celebrations that are central to Jewish life that occur during the academic year, including Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) Eve dinner, the pre-fast dinner before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Chaplain Lesley Adams' Pasta Night during the Sukkoth holiday (Fall Harvest Festival), and Holocaust Awareness Week programming as well as Friday night Shabbat dinners and programs. March of Remembrance and Hope planning meetings are also held at the Abbe Center, as are special receptions during Reunion, graduation and family weekends.

Situated directly across the street from Temple Beth-El, the Abbe Center's location is perfect for cultivating relationships between HWS students and the Geneva community. Students have already begun to establish traditions with the synagogue youth group, like an annual Hanukkah party, occasional Sunday brunches, movie nights and other weekend activities.

"When we plan a celebration or holiday dinner, we know we can rely on the Abbe Center for Jewish Life," says Co-President of Hillel Andrea Rocchio '11. "The proximity of the Abbe Center to Temple Beth-El makes it easy to attend services and stay connected with the Geneva Jewish community."

Programming at the Abbe Center for Jewish Life is open to everyone regardless of cultural or religious background. "Part of being a diverse campus is reaching out to those who are different from us, teaching them about our traditions and learning about theirs," says Samantha Lesser '11. "As the vice president of public relations for Hillel, I reach out to the HWS community to increase awareness of Jewish life events and to make the Abbe Center an integral part of campus life."

Though she isn't Jewish herself, Amanda Ward '11 began attending Shabbat dinner after going on the March of Remembrance and Hope trip, a week-long journey through Germany and Poland to learn about the Holocaust and memorialize its victims, with Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski.

"Through my experience on the March of Remembrance and Hope, I gained an appreciation for Jewish faith and culture, and I felt really connected to it," says Ward. "Shabbat dinner is a great way to relax after a long week and reconnect with friends."

The Abbe Center for Jewish Life features two kitchens - a kosher-style kitchen for student use and the Tina Wasserman Kosher Kitchen for special events. Before the establishment of the Abbe Center, Shabbat dinner drew around 20 people, but more recently, that number has grown to as many as 50 people each week, thanks in large part to the addition of the Tina Wasserman Kosher Kitchen, named in honor of Wasserman, a renowned Kosher chef, food scholar and author, by her husband, Trustee Dr. Richard L. Wasserman '70.

"We strive to provide a friendly, inviting environment for students of all faiths to socialize and learn more about Jewish culture," says Co-President of Hillel Martin Michaels '11. "The Tina Wasserman Kosher Kitchen allows us to do that."

With a design that reflects Jewish culture and tradition, the Center also includes the Wasserman Garden of Quiet Repose. Donated by Tina Wasserman in honor of her husband, the garden is a budding reminder of the gentle strength of faith and family.

"As we continue to identify and develop programming opportunities for the Abbe Center, we are actively seeking support to permanently endow robust and meaningful activities that enhance Jewish Life on campus," says Dr. Richard L. Wasserman '70.

"My hope is that Judaism at HWS will continue to grow," says Lesser. "The Abbe Center for Jewish Life plays a crucial role in that growth by providing a welcoming space where we can gather."

"This space seems to promote making connections," says Weinstock. "Like any good home, the Abbe Center for Jewish Life is a place where people can relax, share ideas and connect with each other."

 

For more information about supporting Jewish Life at HWS, contact Trustee Dr. Richard Wasserman '70 at drrichwasserman@gmail.com or Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and Hillel Adviser Lorinda Weinstock at lweinstock@hws.edu.