Phillips Academy’s Jewish Student Union (JSU) is preparing for a whirlwind weekend of jazz, falafel, and fun, as today marks the opening of the Jewish Cultural Weekend. This year, the weekend’s festivities will be marked by a special dinner in the Ropes Salon, followed by a progressive jazz concert in the Underwood Room and a falafel bar. According to Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Kominsky, the weekend gives Jewish students on campus, “…a chance to reach out to the community, to teach and to show off the stuff that they are interested in.” He stated that the weekend has continued to be a success since its inception eight years ago and he has high hopes for its future. JSU co-head Ben Sweeney ’04 expressed his enthusiasm with the weekend, as well, as it represents an opportunity for Jewish students to, “share [their] cultural heritage with the community, especially parts that would not normally be talked about.” This weekend’s celebration will begin at 5:30 PM on Friday with a formal Shabbat Service, followed by a reservation-only dinner and dessert in the Ropes Salon. The dinner will include traditional Jewish songs and prayers, while Benn Waters ’04 will play guitar and act as song leader. The service will then be followed by a concert in the Underwood Room, performed by Seeds of Sun, a Jewish progressive jazz group based in Boston. Playing for its first time at Phillips Academy, the band plays a mixture of Yemenite, Israeli, Brazilian, contemporary, and progressive jazz. Three of the five members of Seeds of Sun are students at the local Berklee College of Music. Although Jewish Cultural Weekend formally commences today, it began unofficially at last week’s All School Meeting. Unlike in years past, this year’s assembly stood out in that it was entirely student run and did not showcase a guest speaker. Instead, the meeting was led by JSU leaders Sweeney, Waters, Ali Rosen ’03, Ilana Segall ’04. The All School Meeting opened with a musical piece in Hebrew, accompanied by Waters on the guitar. Three members of JSU then stepped up to the podium to explain to the audience their own experiences with Judaism. One speech included a story about converting to Judaism, and another told the tale of attending Jewish summer camp. Lastly, another student spoke about what it means to be Jewish at Phillips Academy. JSU members emphasized the true meaning of Judaism in their lives, mentioning the spiritual comforts that they derive from interacting with other young members of their faith, particularly through their weekly meetings. Because religion is a topic that is not often talked about or strongly emphasized at Andover, the speeches by members of JSU were made all the more memorable. Though the weekend’s activities previously continued on until Saturday night in the past, this practice was stopped several years ago to ensure that students could actually attend the events instead of having them when campus was less lively. Admission to both the dinner and concert will be free to all students and JSU encourages all members of the Andover community, even those who are not Jewish, to attend the event. All interested students are also urged to join in on the weekly Shabbat service run by the JSU.