Active Inclusivity: How to Be Inclusive During Shabbat

Written by: Blue Dove Foundation
May 2023

Active Inclusivity: How to Be Inclusive During Shabbat

We talk about inclusivity all of the time, but what does it mean to be actively inclusive? How do we ensure all people are able to fully participate in whatever way they are showing up?

It’s important to keep in mind that for many reasons, a Shabbat dinner or get-together can be difficult or stressful for some people. We don’t know what someone is showing up with that night. Whether for mental health, dietary, or other reasons, here are ways to create a community of caring and inclusivity.

Think about active inclusivity in the context of Shabbat. You and your guests have shown up. Whatever else is happening outside of Shabbat dinner, you are together in community. How do you ensure everyone who walks through the door feels seen and cared for?

Lifnei Iver – לפני עיוור – Before the Blind (Inclusivity)

This Jewish value, or middah, reminds us that it is our responsibility to do our best to create communities that meet the needs and celebrate the value of everyone. Rather than looking at a disability or mental illness through the lens of handicaps, we can uphold this value by seeking to ensure all individuals are fully able to participate in the community.

There are many ways to approach inclusivity. Here are five themes to start thinking about inclusivity at your next Shabbat dinner.

1. Food – Make sure the food is labeled or clearly presented during the meal so those with dietary needs or preferences can confidently eat. Ensure you have provided food that meets everyone’s dietary needs, e.g. Kashrut and allergen friendly.

2. Alcohol – Have alternative drinks available for those who do not drink. Ensure the way you approach the Shabbat rituals are inclusive of those not drinking and validates different ways of engaging in the rituals.

3. Physical Space – Ensure the space where you are hosting Shabbat meets everyone’s physical needs. Think about how people will access the space, if the chairs are supportive for all body types, and how you might move around during the meal.

4. Communication – Actively listen to those who are attending Shabbat. We might not know how someone is showing up to our Shabbat dinner; they may be struggling with their mental or physical health and have not shared. Perhaps they just had a really tough day. Active listening allows us to read body language, listen to the tone they are speaking with, and express that you are grateful they showed up as they were tonight. Gratitude is meaningful for both the giver and the receiver.

5. Religious Background – There are many ways Jews around the world and with different backgrounds engage in Jewish practice and rituals. Think about ways you can highlight and raise up different ways to engage with Shabbat, e.g. including foods or traditions. Think about how you can learn from each other at the meal, including those who may not have experienced a Shabbat dinner before and from other faiths and religions.

What other ways can you focus on in order to be actively inclusive? Create your own list of ways to be inclusive and how you will approach inclusivity at your Shabbat dinner.

Check out OneTable’s resources and the Blue Dove Foundation’s resource library for other ways to practice inclusivity!


About the Author: Carly Coons, LSW, (she/her) is the Director of Education and Programming at the Blue Dove Foundation, leading the organization in curating and creating mental health resources that integrate Judaism and mental wellness into communities with intention. Carly lives in Denver, CO, where she’s recharged and motivated by exploring the mountains and with her family and friends.

The Blue Dove Foundation was created to address mental illness and addiction in the Jewish community and beyond. They work with organizations and communities, both Jewish and interfaith, across the country and around the world. The Blue Dove Foundation envisions a healthy, vibrant Jewish community that is welcoming and knowledgeable about mental health.