PRO-TIPS For Hosting Your Own Shabbat

I was a completely nervous wreck when I threw my first Shabbat dinner this past summer.

Growing up, Shabbat dinners were not a tradition my family took part in, so I was unaware of all of the customs and traditions that are a part of this holiday. I started attending Shabbat services and dinner regularly with Hillel in college, and soon began to see the beauty in this weekly holiday. Ever since then, I’ve chosen to make Shabbat dinners a regular part of my life.

When I threw my first dinner this past summer, however, I didn’t know where to start. I ended up putting way too much pressure on making sure every part of the night was perfect. The first dinner that I threw helped me realize that as much as I wanted to make it perfect, it was ultimately about enjoying the company of my loved ones, rather than whether or not I cooked a four-course meal.

Since then, I’ve hosted many dinners, both by myself and with others. I have been able to pick up a couple of tricks here and there to help throw a great Shabbat dinner. Read my tips below.


Don’t Invite People Who Only Know Each Other

It might be easy to want to only have a specific group of your friends at your first dinner, such as your work friends or the friends you made from your kickball team. It makes it easier on you, as the host, and easier on them, as the guests, because everyone knows each other. But, I really encourage bringing people together from different parts of your life. Your friends will enjoy meeting all the other special people in your life and you will enjoy the dynamic you create by bridging the gaps between your different worlds. If you have concerns about logistically bridging those different worlds, try to make sure that everyone at the table knows or has something in common with at least one person in the room.

Do Invite People Who Aren’t Jewish

Yes, Shabbat might be a Jewish holiday, but that doesn’t mean that non-members of the tribe can’t enjoy it as well. I find that friends of any (or no) religion can all appreciate coming together for a meal, good conversation, and the chance to unwind. As someone who didn’t grow up around a lot of Jews, I really enjoy sharing my culture and my background. Just make sure you encourage them to ask questions at any point during the night.


Don’t Be Afraid of Store Bought Food

Yes, homemade Jewish food is the absolute best thing in the world! Nothing says a “warm, inviting home” like your mom’s homemade matzo ball soup or that challah recipe that your grandmother taught you how to make as a kid. However, the likelihood of you pulling off an entire home-cooked meal after you get off of work on Friday and finishing it before your friends arrive is “meshugana” (crazy). Just worry about making one or two main dishes. For everything else, go store-bought; the food will be just as good – I promise.

Do Suggest People Bring Items That Will Help Shrink Your To-Do List

Most guests will ask if they can bring something to dinner. While your first thought is probably “no” or “bring whatever you want,” you’ll be better off responding with specific suggestions from your own list. You don’t want to end up with 26 hummuses and no dessert. Wine is always great, and it is what most people will default to. But if someone offers to bring paper products? Take them up on it. Your co-worker wants to make a dessert? Even better. You won’t have as much pressure on your shoulders and you’ll be able to focus on your main dishes.


Don’t Think The Night Has To Be Super Serious and/or Traditional

If I’ve learned anything from all of the Shabbat dinners that I’ve hosted and participated in it’s this: everyone does Shabbat differently. For example, while I say the prayers and light the candles before every Shabbat dinner, others might choose to forgo that part of the evening. The differences can even be more minute than that, like putting salt on your challah or not (I do for what it’s worth). Part of the beauty of Shabbat dinner is that you can make it yours. Whatever you choose to do, own it — people will just be glad to be there and be part of a special evening.

Do Enlist the Help of Organizations That Serve This Exact Purpose

If you are still feeling overwhelmed after reading this entire post or you just aren’t quite ready to tackle hosting Shabbat dinner all on your own, enlist some of the organizations that solely focus on making hosting Shabbat dinner easier. OneTable and Moishe House Without Walls are two organizations that provide up to $150 credits/reimbursement subsidies to help young adults host dinners. I have personally used OneTable, and it has allowed me to host high-quality Shabbat dinners without feeling like I’m breaking the bank.


Leave comments below to talk about your own pro-Shabbat hosting tips.




About the Author: Bryna Kramer is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is originally from the small, southern town of Danville, Virginia. She’s been in D.C. for just over four years, as she moved here in 2013 to attend American University. When she is not busy covering the Wizards on a nightly basis or hosting her own podcast, Meet Us At Molly’s, you can find her binging television or brunching her way through the city. Follow her on Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Volunteer opportunities for the Jewish New Year

So you’ve survived most of your first holiday season in D.C. It’s been a hectic stretch—but now’s the chance to take it one step further by getting out and volunteering your time for a good cause, especially while the weather is still good.

Many organizations around town want to help you find your volunteering stride.  Including:

  • DC Minyan frequently posts new volunteer opportunities—whether it’s for helping out around the shul or volunteering as a hospice worker. The best way to link up with upcoming projects is to email DC Minyan’s Steering Committee at, and they’ll match you up with a good opportunity based on your interests and schedule.
  • Adas Israel has a number of ways you can contribute to the synagogue and the community at large. You can sign up at their website here, and see the checklist of projects to join. Opportunities range from working on membership and fundraising, to helping with food banks, blood drives, and visiting the sick.
  • The DC JCC is also a great resource for finding out when the next days of service are, and finding a blood drive or a soup kitchen to help out with. Their calendar is complete with projects year-round, and descriptions of their programs can be found here. On Oct. 23, the Behrend Builders group will be cleaning and painting The Family Place at 3309 16th Street.
  • If you’re more of a knitter, head over to the DC JCC for their Handmade for the Homeless project to make hats, scarves, gloves and mittens from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 23.
  • Etz Chayim DC is a community forum for people in the area to exchange ideas and create events related to Jewish and environmental work. They’re having a farm day volunteer opportunity Oct. 23 at the Farm at Walker Jones. The small farm at K Street and New Jersey Avenue (northwest) will be open for eager volunteers from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact Rhea Kennedy at to RSVP and get information.
  • Common Good City Farm, on V Street between 2nd and 4th streets, is having a crop-picking session on Oct. 23 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Volunteers pick crops and drop them off at a local homeless shelter so others can join local, healthy food. Register here for the project.



DC Jewish Blog Round Up — Samantha gets a boy.

In case you weren’t able to read the other local Jewish blogs this week, here are a few of my favorite posts:


  • New Year, New Dating Approach: News flash:  Singles columnist Samantha has a boyfriend!  She’s apparently been dating him for a few months; am I the only guy that feels like I’ve been led on?  Now she’s out to help her roommate find a match, and she wonders if JDate is the only option.

Jewish Policy Center:

  • Iranian Plot in U.S. Foiled: If you haven’t read about the Iranian assassination plot in the U.S., read this article by Samara Greenberg.  Remember, the Iranian government is a peace-loving regime that should be offered a seat at the negotiating table.  I wonder if this will make Ron Paul end his sympathetic remarks for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

ShalomDC – Weekly Jewish Wisdom (by Dr. Erica Brown)

  • Complex Happiness – The Release of Gilad Shalit: Dr. Brown discusses the release of Gilad Shalit in the context of Simchat Torah.  Interesting fact from the article:  “In the past 54 years, Israel has exchanged 13,509 prisoners for 16 soldiers.”

Also, Dr. Brown asks, “And if Gilad were allowed to languish in captivity to prevent this kind of leveraging, would any parent of sound mind be prepared to send a child into an army that is not committed to returning their children, whenever possible, home safely?”  Well… U.S. policy does not allow us to negotiate with terrorists, so if Shalit was American, he likely would have “languished” in prison.  American soldiers know this, yet we still have an Armed Force of about 1.5 million soldiers.  Does that mean there’s roughly 3 million American parents who are not “of sound mind?”

Washington Jewish Week:

  • JFNA bumps BDS backer from Heroes contest: The Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish Voice for Peace into a little spat over the latter’s support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.


Want to recommend a DC Jewish blog that we should be reading? Email

Local Jewish blogs we’re reading:



JCRC's Day on the Hill – Register NOW

There is only a limited time remaining to register for the Jewish Community Relations Council‘s Day on Capitol Hill.  This event will allow local Jews to meet with their Senators and Representatives and hear expert panels on issues relevant to the Jewish community. Topics include: protecting health and human services, defending a strong US-Israel relationship, the Iranian nuclear threat, and more.

WHEN: September 15, 10:00 a.m. to approximately 3:00 p.m.

WHERE: House and Senate Offices

For the full agenda, click here.

Those interested must register by September 1. To do so, click here. Cost is $20

Kosher lunch will be provided.