Your Guide to Creating #FridayNightMagic with Virtual Shabbat

Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India said, “Crises and deadlocks, when they occur, have at least this advantage: they force us to think.”

Social distance doesn’t mean you have to cancel your Shabbat plans — it just means you have a chance to get creative. We’ve got tons of ways to keep your next Virtual Shabbat energizing and meaningful, and some advice so how to make it happen.

Some quick tips:

  • Lean into the laughs. We’re all trying to figure this out together, and we promise — things WILL go wrong.
  • We love a check-in to start! Call on someone, they check-in for 30 secs and then pass it to another. Try: “What rituals are grounding you this week?”
  • During an IRL dinner, side conversations are part of what makes the evening special. Randomly assign people into small groups (Zoom and some of the other apps have a “breakout rooms” feature) for a few minutes to connect in smaller groups during the night.
  • Leading any sort of class? Have a chat monitor who can be on screen for questions, and use the keep the chat poppin to keep people engaged.

Once you’re ready to go, here’s how to get started.

Dress Up Dinners 

  • Onesie Shabbat — put it on and party it out.
  • Schitt’s Creek Shabbat where everyone dresses up as their favorite character – show us your best Moira Rose vibes.
  • Broadway shows and even the Opera have free streaming options. Get dressed up in that fancy outfit you never got to wear and head out on the town from your living room.

Watch Party

Game Night

  • Time to brush off those mahjong skills! All bets are off when your most competitive friends get together- get online and play some virtual classics on sites like Jackbox, Sporcle, Playing Cards. Or, get your acting and drawing skills ready for Charades or Scattergories.

Book Club

  • Pick a new book for your virtual guests to read ahead of time, or choose a favorite everyone already loves. Bonus, pick a recipe for everyone to make and show off your culinary skills to the group. (Hint: many libraries offer ebooks, and some even allow you to apply for digital card online!) Need some inspiration? Check out Longreads’ “Best of 2019”.

Open Mic

  • Invite friends to share their music, stories, and even slam poetry. Or go wild and try a new karaoke song (**also start practicing all the songs on this playlist**)

Share Some Gratitude

  • Take a page from Priya Parker’s Art of Gathering and host a 15 Toasts Shabbat. Decide on a theme, ask guests to share a story related to that theme, and end their story with a toast.  Worried your friends might not step up to the challenge? Last one to give their toast has to SING it. 

Take a Mental Break 

  • Shabbat is all about slowing down and unplugging from the week. Use our Mindfulness Guide (complete with chair yoga) to help create an intentional, restful space. Or try this mini meditation from Headspace as a simple way to start off your virtual gathering.
  • Pick a prompt, grab a pen and paper and write until you can’t write anymore. 

Pillow Talk

  • Is words of affirmation your love language? This is for you! (Or anyone else because who doesn’t love compliments?).  Here’s how it works: each person will have their time in the “compliment seat.” 2-3 minutes on the clock, close your eyes, turn around and open your ears to listen. Everyone else unmutes their mic taking turns showering their friend with love and compliments.
  • Trying to deepen relationships with your partner or friends, but not in the same place? Try these 36 questions for closeness.

Get Educated

  • With distance learning becoming all the rage, it’s time to do some old school show and tell!  Pick something fun or obscure to teach about. Make a PowerPoint to share on zoom – PechaKucha style. 

Cribs Shabbat

  • We get it, work from home, living in the same small space, etc. What’s the inspo for cleaning your space? Stay with us… CRIBS. Show off your home and give your virtual guests the grand tour.

Debate Shabbat

  • Sure, it’s election time and debates are happening all over but it’s time to aggressively discuss the things that we’ve always wanted needed to:
    • Cats v. Dogs
    • Twilight v. Vampire Diaries 
    • Is a hamburger a sandwich? 
    • Is cereal soup? 
    • Pizza v. Pasta 

Get Crafty

  • Pull out that adult coloring book you bought and let everyone doodle together or find a new hobby. Make it a challenge to see who can make the best craft with random odds and ends in your home.

Give Back

  • When times are tough, communities come together in beautiful ways. Consider hosting a Giving Circle Shabbat where everyone can pool funds together and decide where to donate the money to. Check out our Tzedakah guide, in partnership with Amplifier, to learn more. 

Wondering (logistically) how to make all these ideas come to life? Try one of the options below to get started


Zoom allows free one-on-one video meetings for as long as you want or for three or more people for up to 40 minutes with their free plan. (Probably a little short for game night.) The next tier at $14.99 a month lets you set up video calls for up to 100 participants and for up to 24 hours long. (Hopefully long enough for game night….but you do you.) Easily share your screen and see everyone’s smiling faces – no account required for your guests!


If you both/all have Apple devices, you can FaceTime. You can set it up as a one-to-one video call or, with newer devices, set up a Group FaceTime with up to 32 people. If your hands are going to be busy and you’re joining from a phone or iPad, make sure you’ve got something (like a stack of books) to lean your device up against.

Google Duo

Basically the Android version of FaceTime. It’s a free app and up to eight can join a call. Check these instructions for how to set up and join Google Duo calls for individuals or groups.


Free to use and easily accessible for both iPhones and Androids. Up to 10 people can join a Skype group video call and works on phones, tablets and computers with webcams. As the host, it’ll be easier to set up the call if you’re on a laptop or desktop computer, but other participants don’t have to be. Add your friend’s Skype contact name, then click on their name from your contacts list before clicking the camera button in the upper-right corner to start the video call. You can even share what’s on your screen and still see each other. Click here to learn more and download.

Google Hangouts

If you have Gmail, you already have access to Hangouts for free. Go to and click “Start a new hangout.” You can invite other people by their Gmail addresses or by emailing them a link. (Pro tip: you can set up the Hangout link ahead of time for a large group or if you expect some people to be dropping in later.) You can set it up as a voice or video hangout. Up to 25 people can join a video Hangout and up to 150 people can join a voice-only Hangout. Disclaimer: Hangouts is not as great if you’re planning to share your screen because you can’t share and see everyone’s faces at the same time.


Houseparty is a free app that allows users to chat with up to 8 other people. The idea is that when you open the app it is similar to going to a house party where you can chat with other people who are there. When you use the app, your friends will be alerted that you are available to video chat, or that you are “in the house”. You can have secret chats among participants, and create rooms where you can and ask people to join by text.

Facebook & Insta Live

Both of these options are great if you want to welcome Shabbat with an even bigger group, but you can also go live on these apps with just people you select to invite!

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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