How to Host a Trendy Shabbat Dinner

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Concerned with dwindling numbers of Jews attending religious services, some Jewish leaders in the last decade have attempted to win young, urban “hipsters” with events like apartment cocktail parties and yoga meetings in synagogues on the Shabbat. At the same time, many Jews looking to forge a sense of communal identity host their own Friday night Sabbath dinners to connect with others. Add a few new touches to your traditional Shabbat to give the evening a trendy twist.

Potluck Dinners and Pop-up Shabbats

  • Pop-up Shabbats are events in which a group of people converge at a particular location, such as an apartment, for a single meal. After the meal they may never meet there again. These ad hoc dinners allow people to explore their heritage and enjoy new foods with others of like faith. You can organize a pop-up dinner using social media like Facebook or Twitter to spread the word about the date and location. Tell guests whether they're expected to bring food. The host may prepare a main course or even hire a chef for the event.

Food Preparation

  • A trendy Shabbat dinner may include a combination of both traditional and contemporary dining choices. Braided challah bread, gefilte fish and chicken soup are staples, but you could also infuse an international flavor to the dinner with dishes such as Persian rice, Cornish game hens and lentil-stuffed onions. For vegetarian guests, serve black bean enchiladas or quinoa and salad.

Themed Meals

  • Shabbat dinner can be an opportunity to draw attention to pressing human rights issues. Host a community dinner to discuss a current social justice issue each week. Serve fair trade food and lead discussions related to persecution and human rights abuses.

Post-meal Entertainment

  • Bring in some after-dinner entertainment or activity after you've said the blessings. This can include playing recorded music or introducing live music, such as a jazz band. Hosts who are leading a justice-themed Shabbat may hire a guest speaker, such as a rabbi or professor, to speak on a current issue. Guests may also enjoy playing some board games or card games.

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