April 10, 2024
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How Can We Be More Inclusive on Shabbat?

Like many others, I am part of several different “women’s groups” across social media, and earlier this year I noticed a troubling trend: People are feeling “left out.”

Single people are feeling left out that they are not invited for Shabbat meals; newly married couples are feeling left out that they are not invited for Shabbat meals; couples without kids, couples with a lot of kids, people with kids who have special needs, single parents, people who don’t have enough money to regularly host guests, divorced people, widowed people, and older couples are all feeling left out that they are not invited for Shabbat meals.

This message was posted in one form or another on almost every social media group that I am part of and it told me two things: First, nobody is being left out, as there is not much going on to be left out of because almost no one is being included, and second, we need to do something about how lonely people are feeling.

I sat down with my husband and we thought about why we didn’t host much and what we could do to change that. The main issues for us were the planning and the expenses. The planning was really the bigger issue of the two as we have children, we both work full time, and we don’t have help at home. The result is that too often, by the time I thought about inviting anyone for a Shabbat meal it was either too late in the week or I was too tired to follow through on it.

To address this problem, my husband and I set up a system that takes out a lot of the stress for us and we thought that it might be as helpful for others as it has been for us:

  1. We picked one Shabbat each month (we chose Shabbat Mevarchim) and made that our “hosting” weekend. This means that I can plan an invitation a full week or two in advance because I know that Shabbat Mevarchim is coming and the invitation is built into the routine of the month.
  2. We planned two menus. If you come to my house on Shabbat, you are going to get either my “taco meal” or my “minis meal.” Both, for me, are less expensive and easy to prepare. This means that I don’t have to plan a menu or even a shopping list because they are already a set thing.
  3. We eat on disposables. For us, doing the dishes (or even having enough of them!) was part of the frustration that came with having many guests; eating on disposables once a month has made a big difference and we can order in bulk since we know that we will be hosting at least once a month.
  4. Finally, we use this “hosting” Shabbat to invite anyone we want, but we always make sure to include at least one person/family whom we have never had over before, whether because they are new to the community, we don’t really know them so well, or we just haven’t had a chance to host them yet.

We have been doing this consistently since Rosh Hashanah with a lot of success. It has connected us to more people in the community and we usually have a really nice time. There is also no expectation on our part that we will be invited back by them because this is our thing, and we therefore do not feel bad if they are not up for hosting us.

Since first posting this message on social media, I have received some great suggestions from other people, including making the meal “potluck” or, for those who are not able to host a full meal, hosting a dessert or an after lunch tea. The goal is really to invite and include people.

The above ideas, of course, might not work for everyone, but I thought them worth sharing anyhow if they can help even a few people. And if you are part of my community and haven’t been invited yet—we hope to have you soon!


Rue Taubes is the director and owner of Gan Rina Nursery. She lives in Bergenfield with her husband and family.

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