First Friday Shabbat Dinners Make Shabbat Special for Young Adults

When my wife, Lisa, and I were looking for a place to live when we moved to Louisville, we had a crazy idea – “Let’s make sure we have a place that could host 20 people for Shabbat.” Fast forward six months and our crazy idea has become a reality. With the help of YAD Ambassadors, the Federation and One-Table, we have not only been able to host monthly Shabbat dinners for 15-25 young adults every month, but we are also encouraging other young adults to do the same.

Every month, First Friday Shabbat Dinners are becoming a place for grad students, couples, professionals, families and newcomers to join in the celebration of Shabbat. As Lisa Goldberg, attendee at April Fool’s and Poolside Shabbat, shared, “First Friday dinners are a fun and relaxing way to come together after a long week to wind down, celebrate Shabbat, and enjoy the company of other young adults in Louisville.”

Every dinner has a theme such as Erev Derby Shabbat in May or All White Dress Shabbat in June, with theme-related foods and dress. Moreover, we have asked young adults to donate items for local and national charities such as JFCS Food Pantry, Family & Children’s Place and Vietnam Veterans Association.

“As someone new to Louisville and its Jewish community,” Ben Schneider said about the All White Dress Shabbat, “I felt welcome at the dinner. It was a pleasure to meet a number of interesting and diverse young Jews from around Louisville.”

The main focus of each Shabbat dinner is to mingle and meet other young adults. Allison Feit shared, “The dinners have definitely been a good ice breaker to meet Jewish young adults who are both new to the community and those who have been around longer.”

For Chelsea Markuson, First Friday Shabbats reminded her of Shabbat in Israel, “where conversation, eating and drinking are top priority. You cannot go wrong with sharing a space with good food and good people on a beautiful Friday night.”

Thanks to the support of a new national organization, it is easy for any young adult to host this kind of Shabbat experience. Launched in NY in 2014 and expanded nationally in 2015, OneTable is becoming a hub to help people “Shabbat” together. Using their online platform, guests can easily create an event for their guests to RSVP. Moreover, they provide ‘nourishment’ credit, Shabbat coaches and more to make each Shabbat dinner a success.

For their one year anniversary in May, OneTable featured Louisville’s Erev Derby Shabbat as one of their favorite meals across the country.

In July, we had our first month with two Shabbat dinners occurring simultaneously on the First Friday, one focused on families and one on younger adults. In total we had over 60 people total celebrating Shabbat.

For August, we are partnering with Keneseth Israel to integrate First Friday with their Big Rock Shabbat program, encouraging young adults to join the service and a young adult pot luck.

Scott Weinberg, KI President, is excited for the collaboration. “Shabbat has always been important to my family, so I’m really glad to see the success of the YAD First Friday Shabbat dinners. KI’s Big Rock Shabbat program is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Shabbat outdoors in a relaxed atmosphere, with Cantor [Sharon] Hordes playing guitar and Rabbi [Michael] Wolk leading an abbreviated service, and it has really appealed to a broad segment of our congregation. It seemed like an ideal fit to partner with YAD and OneTable, and we look forward to sharing a picnic dinner, wine, and dessert with the YAD young adults.”

“I love everything about the dinners,” added Olga Itkin. “I like the amount of Jewish content you include. The food is always so creative and fits the theme perfectly. You all are very hospitable and make everyone feel at home.”

A goal for the coming months is not just to have one option for young adults, but a variety of options to match people to a Shabbat dinner that fits their need. Whether you host Shabbat every week or want to try for the first time with a small group of friends, please consider joining us as we create more opportunities for young adults to celebrate Shabbat together.

For more information, please email or check out

Leave a Reply