Shabbat arrives every Friday night at sundown. During the semester, at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, you'll find a circle of students with guitars (and a ukulele) singing songs and noshing on snacks -- always Oreos, always canned frosting -- before evening Shabbat services and a hearty kosher dinner. Typically, Rabbi Elana Friedman guides students, parents, and visitors through the Shabbat experience on Friday nights.
This fall, however, has been a bit different. First, our entire community welcomed Rabbi Elana and her wife Jamie's baby, Shai Rincker Friedman. With Rabbi Elana out for much of the semester on parental leave, and with Shabbat still happening every Friday night, Jewish Life at Duke (JLD) needed leadership for this critical student and community program. Thus, another "birth" of sorts -- the Shabbat Squad.
Over the summer and early in the semester, Rabbi Elana recruited and coached a group of students from across the spectrum of Jewish observance to form the Shabbat Squad: a corps of leaders who would take over the Friday night Shabbat experience during her leave.
This semester, students in the Shabbat Squad have been leading our song session, and have begun teaching the community new songs, enriching our program. "Squaddies" recruit peers to lead prayers during the service, and offer a weekly d'var Torah (teaching) during services.
Recently, during Family Weekend, a tearful parent remarked about how moving and filled with ruach (spirit) she found Shabbat with JLD. It's true - the Shabbat Squad has not merely kept Friday night afloat, but has infused it with warmth and joy, making it the highlight of the week.