Chabad at UCSB’s 12th Annual Mega Shabbat

By Joanne A Calitri   |   April 15, 2024
Leah Sehati, Ben Konig, Rabbi Gershon Klein and wife Miri with daughter Mina; Rabbi Chaim Loschak and his wife Mushkie with son Yosef (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Shabbat Shalom! The 12th Annual Mega Shabbat event by Chabad of UCSB was held outside on Friday, April 5, at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center, established 2007 by the Rohr Family of NYC in memory of Mrs. Charlotte Rohr (née Kastner). 

The attendance was approximately 1,100 people, the largest single shabbat in the history of Santa Barbara. At this shabbat, all are welcome, of any religious background and beliefs. 

In addition to the members of the Chabad at UCSB, noted attendees were Rabbi Chaim Loschak, the Executive Director Chabad of Montecito and his wife Mushkie with their children, members of the Chabad of Montecito, UCSB Chancellor Yang, UCSB faculty and staff. 

I was invited by Rabbi Chaim to report on the event, which he shares holds much importance for his community. “Many people ask me, especially recently with all that’s going on with antisemitism, is there a future for our kids? And I tell them, ‘Look! There are over 1,000 students coming together to celebrate and engage in our culture and tradition!’ This is why for my community this event so close to home was so special and so important. It gives us hope for the future. It tells us that ‘dor l’dor’ (in Hebrew, which means from “generation to generation”), we will pass it on and endure forever.”

In charge of the event were Rabbi Gershon Klein, the Executive Director of Chabad at USCB, his wife Miri Klein Board President and sister to Rabbi Chaim, Chabad Student President Ben Konig, Student Vice President Leah Sehati, and students Carter Chasson, Sarah Feuer, Eric Marzouk, Katie Israel, and Sasha Rubinsky

Carter Chasson and Leah Sehati (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

After check-in, guests entered through the gold and black balloon arch to the table area. The reception had hors d’oeuvres, water stations, a photo op booth, and yarmulkes for men who wished to wear them. Formal dining tables were set with goldware, black and gold place settings and white roses. Candles were gold votives due to the high winds.

Before sunset, the program began with a welcome by Chabad at UCSB’s student President Ben Konig, Vice President Leah Sehati, and Miri Klein. They encouraged, “Keep your light going no matter what people may say about you.” 

On the menu were vegan, gluten free, and meat options of hummus, tomato garlic confit, arugula salad, scallion herb aioli, honey lemon salmon, chicken soup, matza balls, apricot chicken, and teriyaki tofu along with challah, brownies, oatmeal cookies and more, served by Fausto and Karla Caterers.

At sunset, the microphones, cells phones, cameras and other electronic devices were turned off. Women and children lit the shabbat candles at each dinner table. Individual challah bread and grape juice was provided for each guest for the meal blessings. Rabbi Gershon led the Kiddush blessing to sanctify the Shabbat and a blessing for the first course. The Hamotzi blessing was led by Jake Nguyen. For the second course, everyone joined in singing the song about not working on Shabbat Saturday titled, “Big Gedalia Goomber,” led by Jordan Fishburn and Nick Tassinari,who provided a verse tailored for UCSB. The Bentshing (grace after the meal) was led by Ron Bodel, and the dessert buffet closed the event.

On my way home from the Shabbat, I drove past the increased campus security for Deltopia causing me to say, I couldn’t help but wonder – would the light from the Mega Shabbat’s 1,100 attendees shine a blessing of peace on all of the campus? 

I reached out to Rabbi Gershon via email for his thoughts about the Mega Shabbat, and he explained, “Mega Shabbat is a chance for students to experience their Jewish life and identity on campus as a joy instead of an ‘oy.’ Too many times people talk about the hate we get on campus. But that isn’t really what our identity is. Our identity is about being proud and joyful in our Jewish faith. And Mega Shabbat is the perfect way to show this. There’s nothing more powerful than 1,100 members of your Jewish family and friends coming together for Shabbat to drive that point across.”

The Mega Shabbat was sponsored in part by UCSB AS Finance & Business, the Isla Vista Community Recreation & Cultural Center, and the Jewish Commission.  



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