“More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people.”
This sentiment, penned by writer and early secular Zionist Ahad Ha’am, in many ways expressed his view that the Jewish people, more than a political state, needed a spiritual state and a way to stay connected to their heritage and to each other.
Fast-forward 100 years from Ha’am’s time and you’ll find a generation of young adults still working to create and maintain that connection through the power of a Shabbat experience. But it’s not easy. There’s a lot of competition for what to do on a Friday night, and even if 20 or 30-somethings want to create a Shabbat experience for themselves and their friends, it can be a daunting task to bring the tradition into the 21st century in a way that is both meaningful and doable.
Founded in 2014, OneTable Community Dinners is a platform that provides millennials with the tools to make Shabbat dinner a part of their lives, whether as guests or as hosts. Active in over 90 cities across the United States, OneTable officially launched as a hub in Detroit on February 20 hosting one of their signature Nosh:pitality events at WeWork in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and its young adult division, NEXTGen Detroit. While Detroiters had access to OneTable’s online platform and select resources prior, now there will be a greater local presence offering ground support, localized “nourishment” options, events, large scale dinners and more.
“By lowering barriers that might keep young adults from participating in a Shabbat dinner experience, OneTable works to make Shabbat achievable and accesible,” said Emily Zussman, OneTable Manager of People and Special Projects. “We do this in a number of ways, from ‘nourishment,’ which is how we describe the funding that we provide Shabbat hosts, to one-on-one time with a OneTable trained Shabbat Coach to access to a slew of resources including ritual guides, conversation models and recipes.”
Zussman, a Detroit-native, is confident that Metro Detroit is the perfect community for OneTable to do what they do best, and that a local partnership with NEXTGen Detroit will be instrumental in their success here.
“Metro Detroit has a vibrant and diverse Jewish community, with a growing millennial population. Shabbat dinners already are happening here, and now we can help provide more support,” said Zussman. “We chose to host our launch event with NEXTGen Detroit because they’re synonymous with young Jewish life in Detroit. They know the unique needs of Jewish young adults in the community and they understand the value of enriching lives through Jewish ritual.”
So what’s a Nosh:pitality event?
OneTable’s Nosh:pitality events bring together people in their 20s and 30s to learn traditions and culinary skills, like how to bake challah, while also building a community of young adults who want to host Shabbat dinners.
“We wanted to make our first Detroit Nosh:pitality event ‘a big dill’ so we hosted a pickle-making workshop and dinner,” said Jaime Bean, NEXTGen Detroit Israel Experience Associate, who will be working closely with OneTable to facilitate local programming and support here in Detroit. “We had over 25 young adults come out for the event and, weeks later, we’re still hearing wonderful feedback.”
Sara Fatell, OneTable’s National Community Manager, led the pickling portion of the evening and began by explaining that fermentation techniques have been used in Jewish food preparation for hundreds of years.
“Two symbols of the Shabbat dinner table, challah and wine, are both made using methods of fermentation,” said Fatell. “In the Talmud it states that all meals should include salt (something fermented or preserved) and leaften (something like a pickle or relish) to aid in digestion.”
About 70% of the young adults who attended the Nosh:pitality event said that they already had been to or hosted a OneTable dinner.
“I’ve been hosting Shabbat dinners with the help of OneTable for a few months now. It makes it so much easier to have friends over and do something Jewish on a Friday night,” said Sala Wanetick. “I am so excited that the organization will now have a greater local presence and offer more workshops and events like this where I can learn more about Shabbat and meet more people who are also interested in being a part of a Friday night experience.”
So how does it work?
The OneTable experience begins on their super sleek website. There, people can sign up to host a Shabbat or see what Shabbat dinners in their area are looking for guests.
“Once someone signs up to host, we reach out to them to get a better idea of what their ideal Friday night dinner would look like,” said Zussman. “Based on that conversation, we pair the host with one of our Shabbat Coaches.”
Coaches are usually former or current hosts who are seasoned pros in Jewish custom, general hospitality or both. Coaches serve as a personal resource to hosts and are there to help with everything from cooking tips to Shabbat ritual ideas.
“We’re so excited for this partnership and the opportunity to help OneTable expand their reach here in Metro Detroit,” said Bean. “Our ultimate goal at NEXTGen Detroit is to build a strong, vibrant Jewish community for our local young adults, and the idea of having this incredible resource that will allow for dozens of Shabbat dinners to be happening on any given Friday night is exhilarating.”