Anyone who walks into the Hillel at this university is usually approached by four friendly faces. They belong to the OU-JLIC couples, the Schwartzes and the Hirschhorns, who routinely host meals for students on Shabbat.
This university is the only campus in America to have two OU-JLIC couples because it services hundreds of Jewish students. Hosting Shabbat meals takes both the Schwartzes and the Hirschhorns hours of weekly preparation.
“Between menu planning, food shopping, inviting people and cooking it’s a collective eight hours between Yonatan and me,” Avital Hirschhorn said.
“I do my best to split up the cooking,” said Miriam Schwartz in order to ensure that there is no stress the day before the meal.
Each aspect of every meal is planned thoroughly, from the food to the guest list. Miriam Schwartz purposefully invites people that she believes will have a lot in common with each other to create a warm and friendly atmosphere.
The meals give students a chance to meet students from all over the diverse Jewish community on campus.
“There is always a mixed crowd of people, so I am always meeting someone new,” said Maddie Met, a freshman information science major.
“I actually met one of my closest friends at a OU-JLIC meal,” said Ateret Frank, a sophomore psychology major.
College can be a tough transition away from a Shabbat at home, which is typically spent with one’s family. The OU-JLIC couples fill that void by welcoming everyone into their own family. At the Schwartz and Hirschhorn homes, students have a place in College Park where they feel not only comfortable, but welcome. Enjoying a home-cooked meal, meeting new people, and making friends is what the the OU-JLIC Shabbat meals are about.
“We really want everyone that comes to our home to feel like they are part of our family for Shabbat,” Miriam Schwartz said.
“They make you feel like it’s a home away from home,” Met said.
While Hillel provides Shabbat meals as well, students often prefer the OU-JLIC meals.
“It’s just really nice to go to someone’s house rather than Hillel or peoples apartments… it does not have the same homey Shabbat feel that their houses have,” said Jacob Cohen, a freshman information science major.
Shabbat meals are not just cherished by the students, but by the OU-JLIC families too.
“One of my favorite parts of this job is to host these meals,” said Schwartz.
Even Navah Hirschhorn, the three-year-old daughter of Avital and Yonatan has an appreciation for OU-JLIC Shabbat meals. Avital Hirschhorn shared that when Navah filled out a card for school on what she was thankful for, she wrote: “I am thankful for all the guests that come to my house.”
Whether it’s the homemade challah and chicken soup, warm atmosphere, or bonding with new and old friends, an OU-JLIC Shabbat meal is not one to miss.
Originally appeared on MITZPEH by Nicole Wohlberg