I really like hosting Shabbat lunch, but I need your help with timing. Typically I either just tell my guests a time, usually 1 p.m., or I go to services with my guests and we all walk back together. I’m hoping to branch out a bit, though, and invite people from a couple of different synagogues, and I don’t know what time all of them end. What’s the best way to coordinate?
Bringing people together across communities is one of the great joys of hosting a Shabbat meal, but you’re right to notice that it takes some extra coordination. Nothing here is insurmountable, though, and your awareness of the issues already puts you in a good headspace to address them appropriately and in a way that will work for everyone involved.
In setting a time for your meal, you want to find a balance of convenience for everyone. So, for example, you don’t want your guests from one shul to have to wait 45 minutes for those from another shul to arrive. You also don’t necessarily want to need to leave services early yourself in order to meet guests who may be finished earlier than you are.
Start by crafting a message to your potential guests, either by email or text (and see last week’s post for some guidelines on methods of communication!) that says something like, “I’d love to have you over for Shabbat lunch sometime and wondered when you’re usually available after services.” Then you can see what times might match up among these friends, and you may end up organizing two or three different lunches to accommodate times.
You can also send a follow-up invitation that names a time, specifies that some people may be earlier or later, and just be prepared to roll with it, flexibly and relaxed, which is appropriate for Shabbat anyway. If there’s a chance that a guest could arrive before you, give them instructions on where to wait. Plan your menu to have snacks out for the first guests and so that nothing will be the wrong temperature by the time the last guests arrive. While the food is important the company and the experience are even more important, so as long as the conversation flows, whenever people arrive, you’ll be fine.