Save the Date—March 31, 2023

Many of the larger Hillels around the country employ a brilliant model for their Friday-night programming on college campuses. The Jewish kids divide themselves by denomination for Kabalat Shabbat services, and then unite for dinner. This paradigm beautifully shows the kids that they do not need to be uniform in their practice to celebrate together as friends. A catchphrase I like (heard it at a conference) suggests that our Jewish communities need to be “unified not uniform.”

While our local Jewish community is incredibly unique in its denominational collaboration, I have no memory of our ever attempting Shabbat programming in this way. (Historians, please chime in.) In fact, trans-denominational organizations, other than Hillel, typically avoid Shabbat programming because of all the logistical challenges involved.

I called my friend David Posner, CEO of the Capital Region JCCs, and pitched the concept to him. “David, think we can pull it off?”

“I love it. Let’s do it,” he said.

I then called several of our pulpit rabbis. “I can’t do this without your buy-in,” I said.

Our rabbis also support the idea—most offering to cancel services in their own synagogues that night—and are encouraging their congregants to join the communal event. One rabbi even suggested that his congregants would likely offer home hospitality for Shabbat walkers from our outlying communities. (If interested, please let me know.)

Our biggest challenge has been picking a date. Going through our community calendar, the JCC calendar, synagogue calendars, etc., we’ve selected March 31, 2023, as the most available date for months. This date has the bonus of being five days before Seder, when no one wants to cook Shabbat dinner anyway.

So, mark your calendars for Friday night, March 31, 2023, for our first community-wide Shabbat dinner at the Albany Jewish Community Center. We’ll have a catered dinner under Vaad supervision. We’ll have Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative services. We’ll have a PJ service for the little ones. If you have a group with a different service need, please let me know.

We have a food committee, a programming committee, a denominational sensitivity committee, and a marketing committee (first tasked with coming up with a brand name for the event.)

I’ll keep you posted on details when they become available. For now, save the date.