The following article provides practical tools on how to transform your own Shabbat table into one that is inclusive of all members of your community. The Kiddush, one of the first rituals performed at the Shabbat meal, provides the perfect opportunity to create an environment that is welcoming to all guests, regardless of their affiliation, prior experience, or background. The author, Rachel Aviner is an Orthodox writer, therapist, and lover of Shabbat guests, who lives in Jerusalem with her husband and three children.
Making the Kiddush Experience Inclusive to All
Imagine you are being set up on a blind date. You don’t know anything about your date – in fact, you’re not even sure you’ll recognize him/her when you get to the café! Nevertheless, you get dressed up, take a deep breath, and hope for that this date won’t be a disaster like the last one…
This is a very common experience for people who are invited to someone’s house for a Shabbat meal: the fear, the unknown, the anticipation. How can we, as a community, make our guests feel welcome and included in our Shabbat festivities?
The answer lies in the Kiddush, the blessings recited over the wine or grape juice at the beginning of the Shabbat meal on Friday night and Saturday during the day. Seeing as the Kiddush is one of the first rituals performed at the Shabbat meal, it isthe perfect opportunity to create a comfortable environment for your guests.
Here are some practical ideas you can integrate into your own Kiddush to make it as inclusive as possible:
1. Be welcoming
Welcome your guests to your Shabbat table before you begin the Kiddush. If it feels natural, you can thank them for coming. There’s nothing like a warm word of appreciation and gratitude for their presence to help your guests feel welcome and a part of your Shabbat table.
2. Be mindful
Explain the Kiddush and its blessings before you begin. Don’t assume that your guests will have the same knowledge and background that you do. Can you imagine what the Kiddush looks like to a first-timer? Let alone a first-timer who doesn’t speak a word of Hebrew?
3. Be sensitive
Offer wine and grape juice – or just grape juice – to your guests. In the United States alone 1 in 13 adults struggle with alcoholism. Offering a perfectly acceptable alcohol-free alternative is a great way to avoid inadvertently offending or challenging any of your guests who could be struggling.
4. Be forgiving
Turn a blind eye to a guest who is not participating or incorrectly participating in the Kiddush. Even a slight comment such as, ‘Why aren’t you standing like the rest of us?’ or ‘We drink after the blessings and not before,’ can trigger an individual’s anxiety to the point where he/she won’t want to give a Shabbat meal a second chance.
By integrating the above tools and encouraging others to do the same, you will be able to help transform the environment of your Shabbat table into one of inclusivity, where all your guests will feel at home.
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