OneTable supports young hosts — its target demographic is people who self-identify as Jewish and are post-college, pre-family — by providing nourishment credits and a Q&A support system.
Shabbat has gone viral — think Airbnb meets Evite meets Friday nights.
“OneTable is an organization that exists to help millennials make the most of Friday night, and to us, that means a time to enjoy good wine with good friends over good food — we think that’s just good for you,” said Emily Goodstein, director of strategic partnerships and expansion of OneTable.
The organization supports young hosts — its target demographic is people who self-identify as Jewish and are post-college, pre-family — by providing nourishment credits and a Q&A support system.
“For a lot of people, Shabbat had just become an institutionalized rubbery chicken in aluminum pans in a synagogue basement, and it lost the personal spark,” Goodstein explained.
“Shabbat dinner is not actually something that’s useless to millennials,” she added. “In fact, millennials are often craving that opportunity to break and slow down and reconnect. We just needed to freshen up the meaning behind it.”
As such, OneTable essentially provides a Shabbat dinner for hosts and guests, giving them the opportunity to unwind together.
It provides nourishment credits in several different forms, like a gift card to restaurants, local grocery stores, food delivery services like Seamless, or Etsy to buy Judaica items like tablecloths, candles or serving dishes.
“For someone who’s never hosted before and who maybe doesn’t have things to set a table with … we want to make sure we can equip folks with that,” Goodstein said.
“We have relationships with local grocery stores that offer deliveries,” she continued. “We also offer gift cards to grocery stores, so if people want to shop in person they can. In some cities, we even work with Seamless, for example, if people want to get their whole meal delivered. If people are interested in purchasing something from Etsy to really elevate their experience — if what would be meaningful to them is serving their dishes out of beautiful serving pieces or putting a tablecloth on a table, that’s the last piece of the hosting puzzle.”
Hosts can make their dinners private, semi-private or public, and the meals don’t have to be kosher — it’s whatever the host and the guests are comfortable with.
“We don’t believe that Shabbat needs to happen in one place. Some people would host in a restaurants. Some people would host in a park,” she said. “There’s definitely an opportunity to take Shabbat with you wherever you go.”
Shabbat coaches also are located all over the country to help hosts figure out how they can have the most meaningful Shabbat experience. Hosts can call a coach with questions, which Goodstein described as a “Shabbat Siri” or a “Butterball turkey hotline for Shabbat.”
OneTable is located in Chicago, Colorado, New York and the Bay Area, but is always looking to grow.
In order to expand to Philadelphia, Goodstein said they’d need a funding partner to support local outreach.
“We have a really robust host network in Philly, and we have a few partner organizations we’ve been chatting with,” she said. “Because we’ve seen interest from hosts in Philly, it’s on our short list of places to expand.
“Attending one Shabbat dinner is great, but if we can encourage them to attend a Shabbat dinner and then become a host, that’s even better.”
Although based in only four areas, people in any city can participate, and Philadelphians are testing it out themselves.
Take Hannah Litvin, a OneTable user in Philadelphia. She’s hosted three dinners: a cheese party, a campout in Wharton State Forest in New Jersey and a sushi dinner in Fishtown.
Her events have been open to anyone, and she’s met many new people in the process.
“There have been people who I don’t know who are new to Philly even and seen the posts that I put up and have come to my dinners,” she said. “I’ve made new friends and that’s really cool.
“The people that are behind it are really supportive and there every step of the way — if you have questions about the process or ideas on how to promote your event or how to entertain people, they’re super helpful,” she added.
Litvin, 27, said OneTable has a grassroots feel and hopes it will expand to Philadelphia.
“I really, really value being able to unplug,” she said. “I personally try to stay away from my phone when I’m having Shabbat because I really need that disconnect.”
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