How to Host a Virtual Shabbat

by Alexis Fosco / March 19, 2020

virtual shabbat

Shabbat in the modern world has grown in many ways. While using digital technology on Shabbat may not be the right answer for some, in times of separation or for those who suffer from issues of mobility, these modern resources can help us stay connected and share the rituals and meaning of Shabbat in ways they couldn’t before. 

I have always found value in being with loved ones on Shabbat and it becomes that much more important in times of strife. While we can’t be together physically, we should be able to bring people together in spirit and engage in conversation about how we can support each other and ourselves through these challenging times. 

To get started here are some resources you can use to make your shabbat work online:

  1. Find a siddur (prayer book) or bencher (blessings for rituals and meals) that you like. OneTable has a great one specifically for virtual and solo experiences with explanations of the blessings, alternative versions, and mindfulness exercises to elevate your dinner experience.
  2. Pick a hosting platform such as Houseparty (up to 8 participants), Zoom (Up to 4 with free version). 
  3. For candle lighting: As the host you can light candles and lead the blessings – and if not everyone in your call has access to candles, the Center for Healing Arts has a page for “lighting” virtual candles and is a great resource you can point your guests to. It gives directions on how to light candles virtually and offers the chance to light them in honor of what has meaning to them. There is also live candle-lighting online, led by GatherDC’s Rabbi Ilana Zietman every Friday at 6 pm. Click here to register
  4. Pick an icebreaker that is fun but offers a productive way to get to know people. A good example of this is “What is something people would be surprised to know about you?” or “What is the story of your name?” or “What three people living or not would you invite to your shabbat table?”. Anything open-ended is a great way to start off the conversation.
  5. Have some questions ready to discuss. If you have a theme for your virtual Shabbat, make sure they stay relevant but also leave room for people to discuss what is alive for them. 
  6. Pick something fun to do! There are many online game platforms such as Quizup, Xyzzy (Cards Against Humanity), etc.

Register your Shabbat experience with OneTable, and you can distribute nourishment to each virtual attendee – to get information on the best ways to do this contact your regional manager, for DMV area dinners contact Annie at

Also, if you don’t feel like hosting your own this week, see GatherDC’s calendar for a list of virtual Shabbats events across the DMV.


alex fAbout the Author: Alex Fosco is GatherDC’s Community Coordinator and strives to help 20s and 30s build solid foundations and connections so they can thrive in Jewish DC. When she’s not sprinting across the city to meet someone for coffee, you can find her exploring Georgetown, noshing at one of DC’s amazing restaurants, or traipsing through the Virginia wilderness with her friends. Say hi and ask Alex about her love of costuming!





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.