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June 4, 2009

Celebrating Shabbat with the PLU family

Lauren Eaton

Why would Lauren Eaton rebuild the Jewish club at a Lutheran college?

WHEN SHE ARRIVED on campus as a first-year student, Lauren Eaton set out looking for the Alijah Jewish Club that she had read about. She didn’t find it. There hadn’t been any members for two years.

I cried during my first Shabbat, because without my family it seemed very empty to celebrate by myself. It had always been a mark of solidarity in my family that we would always be together on Friday nights to do our prayers together,” Eaton said.

Four years later all that has changed. Thanks to Eaton, the Alijah Jewish Club has been rebuilt. Having graduated with an undergraduate degree in nursing last month, Eaton leaves behind a club with a healthy membership base.

“Now, there are six Jews on our leadership team and about 20 others who regularly attend Shabbats and other meetings and activities,” she said. “We also have big events at Hanukkah in the fall and Passover in the spring when we have between 50 and 75 people attend.”

“There are many different reasons why people come to Jewish club. Some of them want to keep their traditions alive. Many of them are in a religion class and they are interested in learning more. Many of them are just friends of ours,” Eaton said. “I think some of them only come for my freshly baked bread.”

“For me spirituality is a sense of oneness and a sense of community. You are part of something larger than yourself. Whether you are in Outdoor Rec and you see it in nature, or whether you are in University Congregation or in Alijah Jewish Club, certainly you see yourself to be part of something that is much larger than you can understand. There is a comfort and a strength in that.

“Spirituality is connection, it’s singing for me. It’s enjoying yourself and your faith. It’s discussing God with other people,” she said.

“I pray and end every Shabbat with ‘Od yavo shalom aleinu’ of ‘Let there be peace.’ Peace is important in the world and also in the lives of every PLU student. Whatever stresses we go through, whatever difficulties we have as a minority group, we always have this solidarity. Let there be peace in this life and in your world.”