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Re-Imagining the Shabbat Dinner Party

I think Shabbat has a branding problem. Let me explain. To me Shabbat is the most beautiful, inspiring and spiritual day of the week, the time when you can truly relax and be yourself. The way that looks for me is, let's say, not the same way it looks for everyone else. I appreciate music, and dance, and theater on Shabbat. I enjoy lots of ways for everyone to participate, and even get up and move around the room, meeting, dialoguing, and interacting freely with everyone at the table, regardless of their status, gender, religion, or really anything else about them. I relish scrumptious, vegetable-forward food. Maybe these are also some of the things that get you excited about Shabbat. But, in Jewishly-saturated New York City, they are not always the first things that come to mind when someone mentions they are going to a Shabbat dinner. What comes to mind for you?

I feel that a lot of New Yorkers think they know what a Shabbat dinner is. But if those associations aren't for you, they might obscure the amazing variety of what Shabbat dinners are and can be. You might even eschew the experience entirely. So, I never know how to market FED Shabbat dinners.. Of course, it is super important for me personally to be celebrating Shabbat and to pass the love of Shabbat on to the guests at the table. But will people assume just because I call it Shabbat that they can't come in their everyday streetwear, or come at all if they don't happen to be Jewish?

Simply put, I would like to rehabilitate the image of the Shabbat dinner party. Selfishly it's so when I advertise a FED Shabbat, people have an idea of what to expect that will actually match the reality they will be presented with when they arrive. But selflessly, it's for the world, to have more than one option or vision for experiencing this special day, which really is filled with so many possibilities, for finding oneself, for restoring peace in one's home and in one's heart, and for connecting authentically with everyone around you. This, to me, is the true purpose of Shabbat. And therefore whatever gets you closer to that is great as far as I am concerned!

Photo by Amber Griggs

The picture to the right was taken last week, at the IntraTangos event. It wasn't a "Shabbat event"; most of the evening we spent watching Hector Pablo Pereyra and Adam Tully sing and play their hearts out to regale us with beautiful melodies, and dialoguing with them about life in Argentina, and the true essence of the tango dance. Before we started, however, we created a Shabbat ritual of candle lighting, saying kiddush over the wine, and hamotzi over the homemade challah. I had many guests that night come up to me, Jewish and not, simply to thank me for doing that, for marking that occasion as scared time.

Too often we go about our lives and don't think about the greater context for who we are, what brought us here or there, what truly makes us happy, and who we deeply love. FED is designed to help you think about these things, and so too is Shabbat. I believe Shabbat is a moment in time that marks the rhythm of life, how time is passing, and pregnant with the possibilities that we can do with it something more.

Please join us for the next FED community Shabbat dinner, January 24th at 7pm. You can RSVP here. And please bring your friends, no matter their religious background! Shabbat shalom.

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