On Friday 23rd October the Jewish Society hosted an interfaith Friday night meal for people of all religious, or non-religious, backgrounds; guests included Christians, Muslims, Jews, agnostics and atheists. As a non-religious person myself, I can sometimes fall prey to the stereotypical avoid-all-religious-things attitude, but knowing the host and how well she usually discusses and explains Judaism to me I decided to attend, and I’m very glad I did.
Learning about religious customs
The evening was a big success, and everyone genuinely seemed to have a great time. There were multiple rituals which were optional to join in with, including lighting candles and washing hands, followed by prayers which were all written down for us on hand-outs so if we wanted to take part we could. Everything was explained as we went along, from the religious customs to what classifies food as kosher, to any other questions that people asked as the evening progressed. This not only helped the guests understand why we were doing things the way we were, but also kept everyone comfortable with what we were doing.
The food was amazing. Plus, being free, was probably a big help in why there were so many guests, but genuinely it was delicious. A three course meal paid for by the Union of Jewish Students left everyone feeling fat and happy, and taking left-overs home with them. For most of the attendees, including myself, some of the food looked unrecognisable to anything in our regular diets, but there was a general positive attitude amongst guests of wanting to try everything – which quickly turned into wanting to eat everything. This also resulted in us all trying to hide our bulging stomachs for the group photo at the end.
In terms of the atmosphere, whilst we did do an ice-breaker and chat across social groups, most people attended with at least one other person that they knew which helped to keep everyone comfortable and more confident to speak up. It was a fun and relaxed evening, with the host Esther Malkinson, the Culture and Faith representative for the Societies’ Executive team, cracking jokes and keeping everyone in good spirits.
On a final note, I think credit should be given to the Jewish Society for pulling off such a fun, relaxed, and informative evening so flawlessly. The atmosphere was great, the food was delicious, and the only uncomfortable part of the evening was trying to walk home afterwards with such a full belly. Religious or not, I think a lot of us left wishing Friday night dinners were part of our regular routine.