Recently, CSU Hillel in partnership with the Geller Center, Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM), Key Communities, Multifaith and Belief Student Council (MFBSC), and Fort Collins Interfaith Council hosted the fourth annual “Interfaith Friendsgiving” at Everyday Joe’s Coffee in Old Town.
The Geller Center and LCM have been a part of the project since the beginning. The Geller Center is a local organization that teaches non-violent communication skills that allow individuals to hold deeper conversations about difficult topics. MFBSC recently kicked off at CSU with the support of Hillel. CSU’s key communities offers a welcoming environment that honors individual life stories by bringing together dedicated students from diverse backgrounds in a community that supports success. The Fort Collins Interfaith Council has also supported the event since inception.
The crowd of well over a hundred packed into Everyday Joe’s and dived right into interfaith dialogue with their table neighbors. The night was hosted by freshman Donovan Reed. Reed is a part of the CSU’s Key Communities. His specific class is about “interfaith cultures, religions and beliefs.”
Being a freshman this was Reed’s first “Friendsgiving” but he was elated with how the night unfolded.
“I love this event, there was a great turnout. I like how there’s a lot of different backgrounds here. Also, all the groups giving out their different blessings and prayers for the food was special,” Reed said, before adding, “To me an event like this represents the notion that even though we are all different, we can all come together as one and enjoy commonalities and interests. The idea that everybody’s not much different from the next person. I love it because it brings so many people together and tells the community that we can unite as one people.”
One of the special parts of “Friendsgiving” every year is a reminder of how it began. Four years ago, then new CSU Hillel Director, Alex Amchislavskiy, and Laura Nelson, Director of the Geller Center, met up and Alex presented an idea for an interfaith thanksgiving. The idea originated with current Hillel president Hillary Lorsch. To see what the event was like in prior years you can check out this video.
The first year of the event was “over-successful” and ended up flooding the Hillel house head to toe with people. Since then for the last three years it has been hosted at Everyday Joe’s so that we could fit everyone in one room. The collaboration between Laura Nelson and Alex Amchislavskiy has been a linchpin in the success of the dinner. Last year Laura missed the event due to the birth of her child, but said this year she gained new perspective on the dinner.
“This is the first year that I’ve been more involved on the program side, before I had been just been working with the food. And so this year it was really nice to have conversations on topics other than people having a nice meal, and I think we saw that happen across the tables tonight. The first year we had 110 people all jammed into the Hillel house our first year, so safe to say times have changed,” Laura said.
Laura also mentioned the importance of sharing a meal with strangers and how powerful those shared moments can be.
“I’m biased being a food person, but there is something incredibly powerful about sharing a meal with people. That is so clear because of how many of our traditions value food. One thing we (Friendsgiving committee) have stayed committed to since year one is the powerful conversations that happen in the Hillel kitchen when everyone is cooking. That has stayed really important; students who don’t know about Judaism learn about what Kashrut means and learn all sorts of things about each other by just being in the same room for a couple of hours. It’s not just sharing a meal, it is about the whole process of it coming together,” Laura said.
One of Laura’s favorite parts of the dinner is what it says to our local community.
“What I love about it is not only is it interfaith but its inner-community. Sometimes if you talk to long time Ft. Collins residents they say CSU is on a island. I think a lot of people are working to change that, and always have it been. Tonight was a moment to say, ‘we don’t have to be separate communities.’”
Also attending the dinner for their first time was Nofar Salman. Nofar is an Israeli fellow who is in Colorado for the year serving all Colorado Hillel’s. Nofar was impressed with the various ethnic backgrounds at the dinner.
“The event was very exciting and powerful for me, especially since I’m from Israel so to see so many people from different backgrounds joining together and learning about each other — it was amazing!” Nofar said.
Nofar has a vast understanding of Israeli politics, and as with any type of political debate, it involves religious aspects. Knowing how to respect various beliefs is important in self growth and mutual respect, which she says was visible all night.
“You can really feel your community united open and curious, but most of all I felt that everyone was accepting each other. In a world that has so many controversies it was amazing to see how people can still love each other. It’s why is so important to have communities come together, and it’s what makes the difference between a neighbor and being a community,” Nofar said, before adding bluntly, “and most important, new friends!”
Thank you to our guests for joining, our cosponsors for helping make it happen, Everyday Joe’s for hosting, and Sweet Justice Photography for their wonderful images! If you couldn’t make it this year’s event mark your calendar now for 11/7/18 and make sure you come celebrate diversity with us all next year!
My name is David Kravitz. I’m a senior journalism major and this semester I’m writing stories for Hillel. I’m originally from Washington state. I enjoy cooking, writing, laughing with friends and enjoy dogs more than people.
CSU Hillel serves as an important bridge from the Jewish kid world to the Jewish adult world. We empower students to become leaders, and provide a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home for every student. Additionally, at CSU Hillel we take pride in cultivating a strong community with our weekly shabbats, sustainability projects and community mitzvahs around Fort Collins, as well as, helping our students learn about Judaism and Israel in whatever capacity most comfortable to them. To learn more about CSU Hillel visit our website and make sure to follow us on social media on Facebook at CSU Hillel and Twitter @CSUHillel.