Shabbat Alone, Together

Friday night with OneTable is all about feeling good, and during a global pandemic that forces us to physically distance, we’re finding new ways to keep that magic of Shabbat, while protecting the health and safety of one another. This is difficult and isolating — but what if this pandemic can result in deeper connections to ritual and the most ancient of wellness practices? What if it can deepen our connection to Shabbat and home-based Jewish ritual overall, ultimately leading to less isolation, loneliness, and the related negative health outcomes? This is not theoretical. Never before has the connection to community felt more urgent.

“Shabbat’s meaning may be more powerful now than in normal times. Despite the loneliness and isolation and fear of the unknown, each week, Shabbat roots me in my traditions and reminds me of my humanity. And, no small thing, it keeps my calendar in order.
”

— from “When the calendar blurs, everyone needs Shabbat. Just ask the pope.”
Jay Lefkowitz for The Washington Post, May 7th, 2020

A New Way to Shabbat

Even before we all began sheltering in place, social isolation was an acute issue widely experienced by young adults. OneTable has been obsessed with Shabbat as an antidote to loneliness for since our founding. Now, this.

While remaining dedicated to our mission of empowering young adults to build an enduring Shabbat practice and rich connections with each other, OneTable is rapidly iterating our core resources in response to the need for social distancing.

Since Friday, March 13, we’ve been committed to being as generous and supportive as possible while requiring social distancing. We are NOW supporting solo Shabbat dinners, partner/roomie Shabbat sinners, and virtual Shabbat dinners. We’ve built out new, tailored online resources including a Shabbat Alone, Together Guide and a Solo Shabbat Guide, along with over a dozen blogs, playlists, and more. We’ve also updated our technology and added new features to meet the new needs of our users.

By The Numbers

OneTable was created through an extensive design thinking process to help millennials connect – to find and host Shabbat dinners that are accessible and habitual. In just five years, OneTable has grown from a small startup into one of the largest, most successful interventions for young Jewish adults in America. This past fall we reached 100,000 unique participants in 415 cities.

Since March 13th,

  • Overall usage of OneTable is UP 33%. The pre-COVID average was 225 dinners per week; we now average 300+.
  • More than 3,000 dinners have been hosted.
    • 70% for those sheltering in place alone or with a partner/roommates
    • 30% of dinners have been virtual 

"I’m excited to create a special evening for my household. We’re spending a lot of time together and I feel grateful to have you all. This Shabbat, I want to create a special space that feels celebratory and festive - because we deserve it!"

 — Shoshana Krohner, Detroit

Table talk:

OneTable Live

As we looked at the numbers, we learned that while there are more Shabbat dinners each week than we projected before the start of COVID-19, there are less people at each dinner — meaning not as many people are engaging with OneTable Shabbat each week. To create more space for the thousands of users who normally look for a dinner to attend rather than host their own each week, we created a weekly Shabbat program series featuring diverse ritual experiences, celebrity-led Shabbat cooking classes, intimate music nights, and more.

In it’s first 6 weeks, we had 16 Programs, With 500+ Seats, From X Hosts, and it’s only continuing to grow.

Reaching Beyond

As soon as it became clear that Passover would be different this year, we launched Seder2020. More than 36,000 people visited the site from all 50 states and 63 countries, demonstrating a clear, measurable need for the kind of support that OneTable provides — both connection and content.

Then we pivoted again in time for Shavuot, partnering with Darim Online, Jeffrey Yoskowitz of The Gefilteria, and more to bring The Great Big Jewish Food Fest to life. We learned that people are hungry to connect to one another and to meaningful Jewish content. Everyone is more eager than ever to say yes – yes to presenting, yes to teaching, yes to partnering. This festival helped our community live with more intention as they spend more time cooking in their homes, while giving back to COVID relief efforts.

Press Love

New York Times

“This made me remember why civilizations form bonds beyond their families and enjoy others’ company. It’s the feeling that you could sit at the table for hours and not want to check your iPhone. It sounds simple, but it felt like nothing short of a miracle.”

Food52

“That’s when I stumbled upon OneTable. It was everything we were searching for, plus the added benefit that I would get to cook. It was truly beshert.”

Buzzfeed

“Most Jewish millennials don’t observe the laws of Shabbat, but the respite Heschel described retains its pull. A break. It’s not just that religious rituals promote togetherness in a moment of historic loneliness.”

Reflect, Research, Iterate

  1. TWO Studies on Impact of COVID on Jewish Young Adults
  2. Sharing data with local and national partners

 

By now, you’ve probably read more articles on millennial burnout than you can remember. We know millennials are facing epidemic of loneliness, isolation, and addiction to technology. So what’s the solution? In 2014, OneTable, lead by Founding Executive Director Aliza Kline, dove deep into extensive research, looking for answers. Millennials needed tools to break down the barriers to hosting – access to education, financial resources, and each other. We learned that Shabbat has the power to become an antidote to loneliness, empowering people to find and build offline communities of their own.

The OneTable formula is simple, cost effective, and is having an impact. Survey respondents* say that because of OneTable:

  • 87% find meaning in spending time with community on Shabbat
  • 72% say Shabbat adds a spiritual dimension to their Friday night
  • 65% try to pause and relax at the end of the week
  • 53% feel Friday night is different from the rest of the week

*SeeBeyond Scale,” a report analyzing survey and focus group data collected by Rosov Consulting in spring 2017, and our Logic Model for more.

Building Bridges

To be sure, it’s not just our target demographic of young adults who are suffering, and OneTable is ready to bring Jewish wisdom to everyone who is in need of connection. Organizational collaboration will be central as we work to address the needs of participants as they create their own weekly Jewish tradition, build community, and search for Jewish Holiday experiences.

We’re also leveraging mission and taste-aligned brands in the food and wellness worlds (like Winc, sweetgreen, Year & Day, CycleBar, multiple yoga studios) to bring relevant and customizable resources that add meaning to Shabbat meals.

Whatever users are seeking, Shabbat can truly be the answer. As a OneTable participant explained, “Judaism really rises to the occasion... actually, Judaism was made for these times! Judaism was made FROM these times."

Trying to Get That Challah

Over the last five years our annual budget has grown from $870,000 to over $5,000,000, while our cost per participant has steadily declined. We are now at a turning point. With a strong presence in nine hub cities and participants in more than 185 cities, we are well-positioned to address the most pressing challenges facing this generation of young adults.

In 2018 we began fundraising from our participants and are seeking meaningful ways to create a community of mutuality.  Currently, we are seeking new philanthropic and corporate partners to help us meet our ever-growing demand and to help us expand in mutually beneficial ways.