I’ve invited some friends over for Shabbat dinner. In this couple, he’s Jewish and she’s not. We’re fairly religious but don’t want to alienate anyone. What can I do to make both feel comfortable?
Dear Shabbas Queen:
In the 21st century, most of us have couple friends in interfaith relationships and marriages, and it’s important to be inclusive. At my house, we invite interfaith and non-Jewish couples and families to our Shabbat table all the time. We love it, and it’s an especially important mitzvah: hachnasat orchim—welcoming guests to our home.
I’d recommend proceeding with your Shabbat dinner as usual: Kiddush (who doesn’t love a great glass of wine or grape juice?), perhaps blessing the children, and hamotzi, the blessing over the bread. It’s thoughtful to explain as you go, and ask your non-Jewish guest(s) if they would like a guide that helps provide a bit more information. One of our favorites is “A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home” by Noam Zion and Shawn Fields-Meyer. It’s aimed at families, but it’s packed with fun information where everyone can learn together.
As your guests get comfortable and tear into the challah, ask everyone to share their favorite memories of family dinners growing up, and what they consider the best way to “unplug” and rest from their labors. Get the conversation started, and everyone will feel at home at your Shabbat table.
And, keep up the invitations! If I have one gripe about the Twin Cities Jewish community, it’s that too many people are shy about inviting themselves over to others’ homes for Shabbat and holiday meals. Sometimes, I wish we were a bit less reserved. For most hosts, it’s up to us to reach out and connect.
(Photo: Zeetz Jones)
Ask Shuli: Shabbat Mixer
I think you got it right, Shuli. Shabbat dinner is a great opportunity for Jews and non-Jews to share the homey hospitality that deepens friendship and makes for great memories. I wonder if we worry that sharing our practices and customs with non-Jewish friends might somehow re-enforce the idea of “otherness” — that we are different. I think that the home-based practices of Judaism can seem very attractive to people of different faiths, or of no faith at all. Who doesn’t love a warm home?
Also, the book you recommend — A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home — is a fantastic resource. Thanks for sharing it!