Sharing Shabbat with my community is one of my favorite things to do. I am so grateful that each time I suggest it, a family in my community offers to host the service. These informal gatherings often end up as the most memorable of events to me.
I love the opportunity to gather together as families (yes, my family often joins), welcome Shabbat, share what has been happening in our often all-to-busy lives, and have a lovely Shabbat dinner. I have always welcomed and invited my new families to these events, but I had never created one for families with whom I haven’t worked.
Recently, I shared with you my love of Shabbat: why it is important to me, why I think it should be important to you and some ideas to bring Shabbat into your home. It was this love that lead me to this specific community Shabbat service.
The Idea – Shabbat!
I have been working more frequently in Palm Beach County, specifically the cities of Wellington and Boyton Beach. My families living there have shared with me that they had friends and neighbors who were part of the unaffiliated Jewish community; they did not belong to a congregation, yet were interested in observing and celebrating their faith. They were wondering if I would be able to include them. There was a catch, however. Many of them have young children – some not even old enough for Edjewcation Station. They wanted to arrange an introduction; but weren’t sure of the best way.
Shabbat! It came to me in a second. What a perfect opportunity; an observance appropriate for families with children of all ages. Of course, it would be low key, informal, warm and inviting. I was off and running.
Planning the Community Shabbat Service
Fortunately, a family offered to reserve the clubhouse in The Canyons, a lovely community in West Boyton Beach that is home to young families and centrally located to many of those with whom I work. I created an invitation and opened the event to those I knew, those who wished to meet me and their friends. In keeping with the belief that this event should be casual, I decided a “Pot-Luck Shabbat” would encourage everyone to participate. I developed a sign up list, and in no time had volunteers for every item from main courses (salmon and chicken ) to sides to desserts. Looking for inspiration? Click here for some kid friendly ideas! Sharing Shabbat, It’s Time!
On Friday, October 20th I arrived at The Canyons a little nervous and very excited. This evening was different from any I had ever planned. While it was informal it also included a religious component and new people. Thank goodness I had some familiar faces around to put me at ease.
As it turns out, all that worry was for nothing! First, the new families that joined me were warm, interesting and so much fun. And, their children were adorable! Each time I participate in event with young families I am reminded how much I love what I do. Obviously, families are the base of my community and welcoming new ones is always exciting. It felt like my own family was growing; what a beautiful thought.
We chatted and had a delicious Shabbat dinner and some yummy desserts. Then, we recited the Shabbat prayers over the candles, the wine and the Challah and we all sang some Shabbat songs together. I visited with old friends, met fabulous new people and shared the most special time of the week. The evening could not have been better.
Okay, you all know me, and you know that after each experience I have, I always try to take a moment for myself, recap what happened and discern what I have learned. Sharing Shabbat in the Canyons was no different. When I arrived back home, in Fort Lauderdale, everyone went to sleep and I had some quiet by myself to reflect.
What I Learned About Sharing Shabbat
My lessons were numerous and so important. Take a look:
- I learned that sometimes the most free-form events can be the most fun. I need to plan more things like this. With so little to worry about in terms of logistics, I found that I was able to truly be in the moment and share the evening with some fabulous people.
- I realized that a family event as a way to meet new people really is an awesome idea! The interaction between parents and children tells so much; and because everyone had their families with them, nobody was worried about rushing home to relieve a babysitter. We were all completely present for the entire evening.
- I learned that informal doesn’t mean disorganized, and that sharing some of the responsibility (like who would bring the food) is not only okay, it is critical. When everyone can share in the preparation, everyone is invested — and nobody is overburdened.
- Finally, I reaffirmed that sharing Shabbat is one of the BEST ways to meet people; everyone was relaxed and committed to joining together for a special evening.
Well, I want to do it again! I met some wonderful new people, shared what I do and learned about them. And, I had so much fun. I would love to host more community Shabbats for my current families and new families. Please let me know if this is something you would like to attend. Shabbat is important, we need to step back, reflect and relax. Also, it’s lots of fun to share it with friends!
Looking for more information on Edjewcation Station, Shema Koleinu or Cantor Debbi Ballard? Click the links displayed or call me at 954-646-1326. I would love to welcome you into my community and share with you all that we do.
Hurricane Irma hit South Florida hard. Not as hard as we initially feared, but hard enough that we all felt the aftermath – some of us more than others.
Needing to Help
Now, I was incredibly lucky….I had a bit of a mess and no electricity; but with the help of my family I cleaned up relatively quickly. Thankfully, my power was restored in a timely manner. I was lucky. So many others weren’t. And, as seems to be the norm, those who were hardest hit were the most vulnerable of our community, the elderly and the children. As I watched the news and scrolled through my Facebook feed (let me digress for a moment, what an amazing communication tool Facebook was during this difficult time), horrible stories of devastation and damage seemed to be everywhere. It made my heart hurt and immediately I wanted to help. No, I needed to help. And so it began…..
Innocently enough, I posted my desire to help on my Facebook page; and over the course of a few days I was able to pinpoint an organization in considerable need: Covenant House.
Who is Covenant House
Located in east Fort Lauderdale, Covenant House Florida is an organization that services runaways, homeless and at risk youth including teen parents and their babies. In addition, they provide aftercare, transitional housing and and crisis shelters, among other services and have locations in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. Locally, Covenant House provides shelter for a number of young people, and offers a broad range of services to many others. This organization provides housing, food and counsel to a segment of our young population that would otherwise be without help. As such, they are an invaluable resource to our community.
Hurricane Irma happened…..and she happened hard. Because of Covenant House’s location, east Fort Lauderdale, it was one of the last organizations to have power restored. However, they were still responsible for caring for the young people who relied upon them. I was contacted and asked to help with the coordination of food and supply delivery. They usually prepare their own food, but the lack of power left their kitchen inoperable. So, I put out a call on my FB, and my community responded.
At my core I am a teacher; one whose focuses in my lessons and my life on giving back and doing good. I try to lead by example and have lead countless service projects in the past. Every time I reach out to my community they respond — I am never disappointed. I have to admit though, this time I could barely believe the response to my request. After all, times were difficult for us all. I questioned how much help I would receive.
The answer to my question was A LOT! Families of my Edjewcation Station students, to my bar and bat mitzvah families, to my Mitzvah Makers families and my Shema Koleinu families all offered their help. They donated food and supplies. Together we delivered car loads of water, canned goods, fresh fruit, dry goods and snacks. They donated money, which we were able to contribute to the organization to buy the items they needed. And, they donated their time. They volunteered to pick up and deliver hot meals to the kids at covenant house from the many restaurants that so generously provided food.
I did not need to ask for help twice. In fact, at times I had to “choose” who to send to help because so many different people offered their assistance. You know that old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”? I now know my community is tough!
I am so proud of my families for once again stepping up. Community service is a large part of my life, and time and time again these wonderfully generous people step up and contribute their time and money and hearts. Their children are so blessed. They are learning from example from their parents, their community and their friends. In short, they simply are the best.
Join my community
We are so excited to confirm that ReJEWveNation, the most innovative B-Mitzvah Showcase Experience, along with the ribbon cutting/reveal of the FIRST-EVER Mobile Jewish Classroom is ready to go live!
We have plans that are bigger and better than ever, and are so excited to begin to bring our community the details on this amazing event!
In partnership with The Gallery of Amazing Things, Pure Energy Entertainment, and Radio & TV Personality Chris Cruz, this event is sure to become one of the hottest Mitzvah Showcase events South Florida has ever seen!
Several members of the Shema Koleinu community will become a B-Mitzvah at the Shabbat service prior to the event, and we will celebrate with them as we host a LIVE Bar AND Bat Mitzvah celebration in The Gallery of Amazing Things!
Cantor Debbi will reveal the first-ever mobile Jewish classroom and Robbi Sherwin of the well known Jewish rock band, Sababa, will be singing in “edjewcation station®” with it’s catchy jingle.
There will be many innovative and exciting vendors, catered food, liquor stations, games, raffles, drawings, and more to experience with us that night.
But for now – just stay tuned, as we begin to share the details of this amazing event. Sponsorship opportunities await you – so GET ON THE BUS WITH US!
See ya at ReJEWveNation!