HOST HIGHLIGHT: Annette Blum’s Shalon Series
Annette Blum is a OneTable host and founder of Shalon, a dinner series that offers community, inspiration, and nourishment, by bringing people to the table to focus on important topics and drive change.
Many refer to Shabbat as Judaism’s way of incorporating meditation into our lives on a weekly basis. The principles of Shabbat are set up to encourage us to slow down, focus and as with all Jewish (or as far as I can gather, almost any religion’s) holidays, gather around the table as we eat together.
Wikipedia defines meditation as “a broad variety of practices that include techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force (qi, ki, prana, etc.) and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness.”
Anyone who has invited guests for a Shabbat dinner, whether intimate or vast, knows that the process leading up to it is not relaxing. Despite everything that goes into planning, cooking, and hosting, I always come away from Shabbat dinner with renewed energy, gratitude for my community, and a sense of calm that only comes when we allow ourselves to take time to breathe. The act of connecting and feeding people, both their minds and bodies, forces me to prioritize and to separate from those things that do not serve me.
My version of Friday night dinner, which I call Shalon, came to life almost exactly one year ago. I, along with the rest of the country, was processing the results of the 2016 election. I wanted to create a welcoming, safe environment for anyone who was committed to respectful, action-oriented conversation to come together to discuss issues in our community and explore ways to make change.
I’d been hosting Friday night dinner for friends for years – and truly loved bringing people together around the table to wind down, laugh, challenge each other, and eat! I realized that Friday night dinners were a way for me to contribute and to make a difference during a time when people felt disconnected, angry, and scared. As I started to share my idea out loud, more and more people told me about and suggested I use the OneTable platform to make the dinners accessible not only to my network, but to an entire group of people looking to be part of something bigger.
Empowered by OneTable, I have hosted five Shalons in 2017 (with a 6th on November 17th). I have brought friends and strangers together to disconnect from their daily lives while enjoying incredible meals and fabulous wine. As I watch people bond with their neighbor, rip into the crusty Challah, savor a bite, or become inspired, I am filled with joy. This sense of contentment – knowing that I am doing what I love, bringing my passion for relationships, learning and great food together with Jewish traditions that have survived centuries – empowers and calms me.
When I look back, I’m amazed at how many topics we’ve addressed (from homelessness to immigration to gender inclusion) and all the delicious courses we’ve consumed. We have one last event coming up in 2017 and I couldn’t be more excited to end the year with a discussion about engaging politically to make our voices heard and celebrating with a “Friendsgiving” menu. I know that the evening and the year will close with a sense of accomplishment, a huge smile and a long deep breath.
If you’re in the Bay Area, join us!