Plant Powered Shabbat: Samantha Gross + Elizabeth Biener

Written by: Samantha Gross + Elizabeth Biener
April 2022

Plant Powered Shabbat: Samantha Gross + Elizabeth Biener

Plant Powered Shabbat is a OneTable series that celebrates the Jewish values of nourishing ourselves and the world around us through plant-based cooking and eating. Hear from OneTable hosts and guests how they’re bringing these values to the Shabbat table!

We sat down with two passionate plant-based hosts, Samantha Gross (she/her) in Boston and Elizabeth Biener (she/her) in DC. With different reasons for creating vegan Shabbat dinners and their own unique callings to this topic, we wanted to share their voices with you in the hopes that you, too, feel empowered to bring your interests and beliefs to creating ritual and community that resonates with you!

Tell us a bit about you!

Samantha: I’m a journalist who recently moved to Boston from Miami. I’m excited to meet new friends and explore my neighborhood — otherwise, you’ll find me at home with my cat, Frankie!

Elizabeth: I’m a grant writer in the DC region who loves exploring the city (having lived here a while, I’m getting into the super-niche museums/areas now) and learning languages (Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese).

What inspired you to go vegan?

Samantha: After having been vegetarian for a few years, I decided to make the leap in 2019 with the goal of reducing my carbon footprint and my harm to the animals harmed by the dairy industry.

Elizabeth: I’m not actually vegan, but I enjoy eating plant-based dishes! I have a few family members who are vegan or vegetarian, and I’ve gotten really into cooking from plant-based cookbooks. I think everyone should have a few favorite vegan recipes and patronize vegan restaurants, whether or not they are vegan themselves – it’s its own cuisine worthy of exploration and elevation.

How is veganism connected to your Judaism?

Samantha: I think the Jewish teachings of tikkun olam (repairing the world) resonate with my veganism. I’m always striving to not only bear responsibility for my own welfare but also the welfare of society at large, including animals.

Elizabeth: When I host OneTable Shabbats, I think having an intentional and Jewish experience around plant-based food expands the mental definition of a Shabbat meal, which traditionally often centers around meat or fish. As someone who keeps kosher-style, vegan cooking also facilitates my meal planning and increases my connection to this aspect of Judaism.

What does Shabbat mean to you?

Samantha: Shabbat, to me, is a time to set aside for unplugging from the stress of a work week and be intentional about how I spend my time, whether it’s to connect with others or to reflect. Shabbat comes with culinary traditions that carry meaning, and being vegan has also given meaning to what I’m putting in my body. I like to make vegan challah, and while I don’t have a go-to recipe, I like any water challah recipe that calls for brushing the dough with aquafaba or chickpea water. It gives the challah a shinier exterior usually achieved with egg white!

Elizabeth: At each moment in my life, Shabbat has held different meanings for me. When I grew up it was all about family time, in college it was centered around the services, and when venturing out on my own it became creative and ever-changing week to week. In DC in particular, it’s been a way to meet people and get connected with my Jewish identity. When I host a Shabbat with OneTable, it’s usually focused more on the food and enjoying the process of creating something to share with my friends.