THE SHABBATNESS STORY
In March of 2014, my 90-year-old, 4'10" Nana Roza Goldberg baked hundreds of hamentaschen from scratch in the same little kitchen in Jacksonville, Florida, in which she's baked numerous delicacies since immigrating to the U.S. after surviving the Holocaust. When I turned 29 that month, Nana became particularly distressed that I was the first of her many grandchildren who hit this age unmarried. That Purim, she packed two additional "special ingredients" in her famous annual batch of hamentaschen: love, in hopes that it infects all who eat it; and extra sugar, because "no man likes a tiny tuches like yours!". With these two magical ingredients, she made only one request — that they be served after a Shabbat dinner hosted in my home. "Shabbat," she says, in her thick Polish accent, "is magical — nothing brings together nice Jewish boys and girls like a good, home-cooked Shabbat dinner." Although I may not believe the majority of my grandma's superstitious advice nor indulge in her tuches-plumping tactics, I couldn't agree more strongly on her belief in the power of the Shabbat experience, not just for romance, but also for friendship, networking, and family time.
I obeyed Nana Roza and served her delicious hamentaschen at a "Shabbatness" — one of my intimate, private dinners for single Jewish professionals in their 20s-40s. As a proud 2014 Presentense Fellow, my dream of launching my social venture based around Shabbat programming and events had become a reality, and I was hosting groups of 10-18 in my home a couple times per month. At this particular dinner, be it the hamentaschen, my potent bourbon-based "Shabbatini" cocktail, or the abundance of plump tucheses (tucchi?) in the room, my Nana would've kvelled at the sight of so many good, hardworking, accomplished young Jewish singles connecting over the Shabbat table. I called her a few days after to thank her for the cookies and share the news that so many guests had left the dinner happy and hopeful, with new friends and first dates in the works. I could practically see her wiping away her tears of joy with the sleeve of her T.J. Maxx cardigan, itching to call her best friend Pearl (whose grandson is single, did you know? And such a mensch!) with the news. I am also a bit teary-eyed to have celebrated the recent births of two beautiful babies to two amazing couples that I introduced at a Shabbat a few years ago.
Shabbat really IS magical. In addition to connecting the present to the past, participating in the rituals of our ancestors and making it our own, it's also a time to gather with family and friends, old and new, after a long, busy week. Putting our phones away, checking out from the hustle and bustle of city life, and taking time to eat, talk, and relax — it's truly unlike any night of the week, and there is nothing that makes me feel more strongly connected to my Jewish identity.
Now, thanks to demand and media attention as well as an exciting partnership with J2Food, Shabbatness has expanded to accommodate 50 people at each monthly dinner. It has also grown to include various diverse opportunities that bring together people of all ages and backgrounds over unique, high quality events.
Nana Roza, now 95 years old and still baking, couldn’t be more proud.