Feeding Hillel

Written by Georgie Blewett

Illustrated by Ashley Lavizadeh and Rachel Ledeboer

I interviewed Jess Shanes, who is a volunteer a Hillel, a Jewish organization that promotes community and student networking. She is in charge of planning and cooking meals.

Georgie: What is Shabbat to you?

Jess: For me specifically, Shabbat has always been a time to stop and reflect on the past week while appreciating all that is being provided to me. I went to Temple most Friday nights, and it was a really nice time to connect with the friends that I did not get to see during the week, and enjoy some time in a stress and judgement free zone!

G: What is your role in cooking dinners at Hillel?

J: I have been a Shabbat Chef at Hillel for almost two years now, and basically this entails shopping for all of the food, and cooking it up for all of you to enjoy! My role in this is to make sure that everyone gets fed and to ensure that Fridays go as smoothly as possible. Luckily, I get to do it with my two best friends as my co-chefs, so I would consider myself pretty lucky there.

G: Who do you plan out your meals with? How do you decide what to cook?

J: Josh and Jonah [the co-chefs] do most of the meal planning because they like to keep it original and try out new things. However, at the end of the week we come together and decide what is most practical and what will taste the absolute best!

G: How do you go about cooking Kosher for so many people?

J: Cooking Kosher isn’t too much of a challenge as long as you are committed! The Hillel kitchen is kept Kosher, so the only thing we need to do is make sure that all the food we buy has some sort of Hechsher (Kosher symbol). If anyone is looking to keep Kosher, Trader Joe’s has a bunch of delicious options!

G: Is it difficult coming up with recipes?

J: Coming up with recipes isn’t particularly challenging, but it can be hard to bring the recipes to life in such large quantities. It tends to be worth the challenge!

G: How many people do you cook for every Friday?

J: There isn’t a very consistent number but we tend to get anywhere between 20 and 80 people at Shabbat every week. I personally find it kind of cool to always be seeing different faces and welcoming new people into a place that I hope they find comforting!

G: Did you grow up with these recipes?

J: I grew up with some of them! Most specifically chicken and matzo ball soup – these have always been my favorite. My parents are both excellent cooks and I would say a pretty big part of participating in the Jewish community is getting together to eat some hefty and delicious meals!

G: What’s it like seeing everyone DEVOURING your delicious food?

J: It’s nice to see people not so much enjoying the fact that the food is good, but rather taking the time to sit down and eat a full meal! It is really challenging to set aside time in college to eat and let go of all the stress that has built up during the week. I like to think that Hillel offers up an opportunity to do that.

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