Chana Mas-challah Friday Night

After a trip to India, OneTable Host Rachel Hillman reflects on how hosting a Friday night dinner allowed her to share her travel experiences with those she loves.

The table looked like a traditional Shabbat dinner table: a white tablecloth, candlesticks, wine glasses, challah. There were pieces to the table setting, however, that were not on my typical Shabbat dinner table. The armoas of chana masala, palak paneer, and basmati rice filled the air in my new apartment with spices that recalled my recent trip to India.

I spent a week visiting the Jewish community of India with a dozen other young Jewish adults from North America through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Entwine program. We saw the old synagogues of Cochin, met and became friends with Jewish young professionals from Mumbai, sang songs with elderly Jews in their home, and, of course, ate deliciously flavorful meals around the country. I came back to the United States feeling the power of Jewish community with new friends from across the globe who had more similarities with me than differences. I decided to celebrate the experience by having a group of friends over for a OneTable Shabbat dinner.

My trip to India came two months after I moved to Chicago from Washington, DC. Thanks to Jewish geography, I quickly met friends-of-friends or reconnected with old friends, and I knew Chicago wouldn’t feel like home without a hosting experience under my belt. After traveling to India, and hearing from these new friends that they wanted to learn about my experience, I saw an opportunity to combine my return to Chicago with an opportunity to host Shabbat dinner for the first time in my new apartment.

I decided to host my Shabbat dinner through OneTable because I love the resources provided by the network. Not only did I receive “nourishment” for Indian cuisine, I also had the opportunity to speak with my OneTable City Manager, Marissa Freeman, about the goals of my dinner and the ways to reach out to my friends to invite them over. Since Marissa is also new to Chicago, she had a lot of insight into how to be a good hostess to new friends.

With resources provided by JDC Entwine over the meal nourished by OneTable, my guests engaged in icebreakers around travel and global Jewry, and I had the opportunity to share my experience visiting the Jewish community in India with my new Jewish community in Chicago. We talked about the places I visited, the people I met, and, of course, the food I ate.

While the food on my Shabbat table may not have been “typical” for Shabbat dinner, the atmosphere was exactly what I wanted. Good friends, good food, lots of laughter…what more could one want?

The dinner was a perfect reflection of the global Jewish community I’ve experienced through travel alongside the hyperlocal Jewish community of my new Chicago neighborhood.

Inspired? Click here to create a dinner or apply to become a host.

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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