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On Thanksgiving Eve, Brooklyn College Hillel Feeds the Homeless

December 12, 2006
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Students at Brooklyn College Hillel prepare food for "Feed the Homeless."
Students at Brooklyn College Hillel prepare food for "Feed the Homeless."

By Melanie Kantor

It is 6:00 p.m. on the evening before Thanksgiving and most college students are at home with their families or out with friends they have not seen since the summer. 

But at Brooklyn College, nearly 200 students are at the Brooklyn College Tanger Hillel sharing a Thanksgiving dinner with homeless men and women from four shelters around the city.

“Feed the Homeless,” an annual event, attracts students from all student organizations on campus, including Greek fraternities and sororities. And the students are not only Jewish students.  They are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Christian and Muslim.

What brings them all together on a day off from school? 

“It’s the cohesive effort to make a good time for people who deserve it,” says fourth-year student, Nicole Moses. “Making their holiday better makes us feel good.”

”On the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving most people would say that it is impossible to have a successful program on campus,” said Linda Askenazi, executive director of Brooklyn College Hillel.  “Nevertheless, [this program] is arguably the most diverse, the most upbeat and the best attended ‘chesed’ program of the year.”

The event, now in its tenth year, provides a Thanksgiving dinner for those who otherwise might not have a dinner. But it’s not just the turkey that they come for. The students work hard to create a holiday atmosphere for those who do not have a home to go to for the holidays. Students are encouraged to sit with and talk to the homeless who attend. 

Sharona Spiewak, a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, says the most meaningful moment of the entire event was when an attendee remarked to her that “I just didn’t know so many people cared.” Spiewak said she was overjoyed that the attendees felt so welcome. 

“There are soup kitchens out there that they could have chosen to go to instead,” she says. “We’re happy they chose to come to us.”

The festive atmosphere was enhanced by a deejay and performances by a student a capella group, “Hakol Baseder.” 

For Moses her favorite part of the event was “getting everyone up to dance and seeing the smiles on their faces.”

Food for the event, including a dozen turkeys, was donated by area bakeries, butchers, and restaurants. Students picked up the food and brought it to the Hillel, where the food was prepared and set out on ten tables. 

Both Moses and Spiewak agree that it is the cohesive effort of students from all of the organizations involved that made this event so special. 

Moses says the event is one that “all Hillels should do. It brings all the students together and we get to meet new people every year.” And after four years of attending the event, she has no plans of stopping now. 

“It can only get better every year,” she says.


Melanie Kantor, a junior at Georgetown University, is a communications intern for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.