Harry’s 5th Annual Shabanuka

We sat down with OneTable host, guest and Shabanuka legend, Harry Kastenbaum.

What is Shabanuka? Think Shabbat themed ugly Christmas sweaters + Chinese food + DJ Dani Luv + 200 guests = best night ever. If you’re in NYC on December 16th, trust us, you want to be there. Get your ticket now.

Tell us about yourself, what made you want to host?

I am a life-long New Yorker and growing up, Jewish people, culture and religion were omni-present. I then went to college at Bucknell University where I met the reality that living a Jewish life required effort when it was not always around you. When I moved back to NYC, I decided to start creating and building my own Jewish community.

How did Shabanuka start?

While Jewish-living was available in a number of places for me and my peers to engage with in post-college NYC life, we were not engaging. Thus, I decided to borrow a tradition that was a staple in my fraternity-the annual ugly Christmas sweater party and coupled it with a Shabbat and Chanukah celebration. The first three years we had the party as Sammy’s Romanian steakhouse, which provided us the entertainment of the one and only Dani Luv, as well as a link to old world customs and ethnic food. Schmaltz anyone?

What started as a small group of friends getting together for Shabbat in ugly sweaters has transformed into an ironic and festive holiday party at a traditional Chinese banquet hall in the lower east side of Manhattan. We celebrate our heritage and Shabbat traditions over a dim sum banquet and a top shelf open bar. Dani Luv has even made the trip with us from Sammy’s as our MC for the night.

Over the past several year’s, what’s your favorite thing about planning this event?

Leading up to the event each year, I love the personal messages and texts from friends that have participated in years past sending me pictures of their ÚGLIEST sweater. The event itself is a mini-passion project for me to bring 200 of my friends together for a night to celebrate our culture. I take the responsibility of planning a great event seriously and its wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves.

How has OneTable helped you grow Shabanuka?

OneTable has been a steadfast supporter since the inception of Shabanuka. I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted this event to look and feel like, which could only be done with the generous support of OneTable in helping keep the ticket price reasonable for all guests. From the beginning, OneTable was not only a staple in the financial backing, but also source of advice when I was a lonely dinner host without any experience (how much wine does one need for 200 people?!). This tradition – which I hope will continue for a number of years – would not have been able without the organization and its supportive staff.

What can we expect at the 5th annual Shabanuka?

I have to keep this close to the ugly sweater/vest so you will have to join us to see. The Shabanuka family continues to grow and I try to add some new special flare every year. There is an official after-party this year to keep the celebration going. Also, I’m not saying there will be custom ice art and open air photo booths, but I’m also not-not saying that…

Next year in Jerusalem… or back at the Golden Unicorn!

Impressed? Us too. Create a dinner, attend a dinner, or apply to become a host to share in the OneTable magic.

OneTable empowers people who don’t yet have a consistent Shabbat dinner practice to build one that feels authentic, sustainable, and valuable. The OneTable community is funded to support people (21-39ish), not in undergraduate studies, and without an existing weekly Shabbat practice, looking to find and share this powerful experience.

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