Expanding the Common Shabbat Experience
Until now, a common Shabbat experience for our members was to attend Friday evening and/or Saturday morning services. In an effort to expand upon this commonality, we organized Temple Shaarei Shalom Grand Shabbat. This fun and inclusive Shabbat experience is meant to:
- expand the Shabbat celebration beyond the religious service;
- bring into our congregation members who have had minimal participation in past events;
- inculcate the youngsters of our congregation with Jewish tradition through a consummate Shabbat celebration rather than just a service;
- blend members of different generations of our congregation and truly define our motto: “Generations Coming Together”; and
- show the non-affiliated Jewish community that we are a family that exists beyond our synagogue walls
We now believe that this event should be spread throughout the area.
Temple Shaarei Shalom Grand Shabbat consists of a Shabbat service followed by a community Shabbat dinner. Dinner is, however, far different from what one would expect. The dinner takes place in over 30 different members’ homes throughout our community, ranging from as far north as West Palm Beach and as far south as Boca Raton.
In our inaugural run, we held an early service after which members dispersed to the various hosts’ homes for dinner. The event turned out to be the most successful and inspiring in the history of our young congregation. Based upon written responses from about 27% of the participants, plus follow-up phone calls and emails—as well as word of mouth—it proved to be an evening full of camaraderie, good food, wonderful conversation and the making of new friends.
Many of the people who responded let us know that they would now feel more comfortable attending services because of the new friends they had made. Reports are that the children attending the dinners were not just attendees but participants. Almost every home did the various blessings and many sang some or all of the songs provided.
This one event accomplished almost all of the goals or criteria required. First, we connected the Shabbat dinner to the Shabbat service. Second, we attracted many people who had not been active. Third, new friendships were forged, resulting in greater participation in congregational life.
RESOURCES: View a consummate account of Grand Shabbat
For more Shabbat resources, visit the URJ's Shabbat web page.