Under sunny skies, UCSB Chabad hosted the 5th Annual West Coast Shabbaton this past weekend, attracting over 500 Jewish students for beach barbeques, sailing trips and prayer services.

Chabad, an off-campus organization, hosted the event for the first time, and brought students from more than 17 universities to its I.V. residence in celebration of the Jewish Sabbath, the period of rest from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. According to Chabad Co-Director Rochel Loschak, the event was the largest West Coast Shabbaton to date.

Chabad provided housing for all visiting students, and admission was free for all UCSB students. The organization also offered attendees the Shabbat meals – three traditional meals which are eaten between Friday night and Sunday night – along with social events, educational workshops and prayer services. Also included was an address from author and radio host Dennis Prager entitled “Israel: A Source of Pride,” during which he discussed Jewish heritage and identity.

While the events were geared towards Jewish students, Loschak said that everyone was welcome to participate in the festivities.

“Chabad’s motto is to be a Jewish home away from home for Jewish students on campus and to expose Judaism in a loving and exciting environment and fashion,” Loschak said. “Therefore, all students are invited.”

The Shabbaton began at sundown on Friday with a sushi mixer, a candle-lighting ceremony and a prayer service. A five-course dinner was served afterward. The Shabbaton continued throughout the weekend with educational sessions and social gatherings and ended on Sunday with a sailboat trip.

According to Chabad Vice President Valerie Oiknine, a third-year chemistry major, the event encouraged participants to intermingle while simultaneously celebrating their shared Jewish experiences.

“[The purpose] is to give everyone an opportunity to experience the Jewish Shabbat,” Oiknine said. “It’s intercollegiate and is also a nice way of meeting people.”

Meanwhile, fourth-year sociology major Cassandra Young said the weekend was an excellent opportunity to interact with peers.

“It [the Shabbaton] is a great way to meet people from other schools,” Young said. “Also, free food.”