Shabbat 2020, an iconic program run each year at Binghamton University in New York State and conceived by the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life at Binghamton University, was expected to bring together as many as 2,000 students, alumni, family members and faculty for Shabbat dinner and prayers this past Friday night—and it did, only online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual program on March 20 was a celebration of tradition and Jewish pride, and included prayers for world healing, in addition to a performance by a New York-based a capella group while participants maintained mandatory social distancing.

Under normal circumstances, Shabbat 2020 would have included a full-course Shabbat dinner. This year, the Chabad on Campus center made individually prepared dinners available to all B.U. students remaining at school. The dinners were available for pickup from the center on Friday afternoon.

“A program like this can only succeed where there is a well-established Jewish infrastructure and a vibrant and dedicated core of Jewish students,” said Rabbi Levi Slonim, Chabad development and program director, “otherwise you can’t even consider attracting this amount of students. It’s a real tribute to our student leadership and organizing committees.”

Prepared kosher food for Shabbat 2020 at Binghamton University in New York State, March 20, 2020. Credit: Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life at Binghamton University.

Shabbat 1800 has long been a yearly highlight for many Jewish students at Binghamton, with some reporting that it was the first Shabbat dinner they ever attended.

“Despite the many iterations of this event due to the situation, it was inspiring to see so many students come together to make this event a reality,” said senior Jacob Richman, who coordinated the event with Hannah Kaplun (Class of 2023) and Danielle Ganchrow (Class of 2024). “Everybody involved agreed that it was worth all the effort to see so many people unite and enjoy their heritage and traditions, especially during these challenging times.”

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