Hoya Paxa

Hallelujah Shabbat

Soon it will be 20 years. I’m not sure exactly when, maybe next year. Maybe the year after. I don’t doubt, though, that we’ll get there. Hallelujah Shabbat has truly become a Georgetown Tradition.

This year roughly 60 students, visitors, and others gathered on Friday, March 15 in Sellinger Lounge to celebrate Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) with song. Not just any song, but the beautiful and inspiring music of Georgetown University’s Gospel Choir. The choir’s songs were interspersed among the traditional Kabbalat Shabbat liturgy, poems, readings, and a special discussion on the meaning of slavery in the Jewish tradition and in the Gospel tradition. 

The Jewish holiday of Passover was just over a week away, and the story of the Exodus from Egypt would be on just about every Jew’s mind. But, what does that mean to a twenty-first century college student? Does the retelling of the story create a bond with African-American descendants of slaves? Is it enough to say “my people were once slaves, so we understand slavery in a different way”? The students did not seek answers to these questions and more, but they sought to understand how by asking the questions and exploring the possible answers they could and did create new and special bonds that have value today and tomorrow.

Over the years the various changes in venue, song selection, and readings have combined to keep this wonderful tradition vibrant and current. The service flowed, the discussion was animated, and the songs reached toward heaven—what more could any of us ask for? Just one thing: to do it all again next year.


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