Cincinnati’s new independent initiative, Friday Night Shabbat (FNS), is building a following with its free, Friday night Shabbat Dinners around town. Open to all families with children 12 and under, these dinners are a great way for parents and children to spend time with friends, meet others, enjoy delicious food, and celebrate Shabbat.
On December 9, Café Alma, a popular restaurant in Pleasant Ridge, will open its doors to the FNS community offering delicious food and an inviting atmosphere.
“Friday Night Shabbat’s concept is very simple,” co-founder Jeff Zipkin said. “We arrange the dinner for you. All you need to do is go to the website for information and then show up.”
When you attend an FNS event you can expect to enjoy Shabbat with a delicious meal, meet people and make new friends, celebrate your family's Jewish identity, and see how different organizations celebrate Shabbat. It brings families across the city, from all backgrounds, religious and non-religious, together for a good time.
“The Friday Night Shabbat dinners are fantastic,” parent Danny Warshawsky said. “Our whole family enjoys going for the food, friends, and community. Our kids keep asking about going every week, since they loved each Shabbat dinner. It is such a nice way to experience Jewish Cincinnati at various synagogues and temples across the city as well as reconnect with our close friends after a busy week.
Friday Night Shabbat co-founders Shelly Gerson and Dr. Jeff Zipkin are excited to see the initiative take off and build momentum each week. The goal is to alleviate stress and give families a place to relax, eat, and connect without adding anything additional to their plates.
“From an early age, both Jeff and I enjoyed Friday night dinners with our families and friends,” Gerson said. “The tranquility and joy of Shabbat is a precious gift to the world that has nurtured the Jewish people throughout the ages. Today, many households have two working parents and families are pulled in many directions so there is precious little time to prepare for Shabbat dinner. Grandparents, other relatives, and friends often live far away and are unable to help. Friday nights can be stressful for many, and some families forego Shabbat dinner altogether. We wanted to do something to change this situation and that’s why we decided to start Friday night Shabbat.”
FNS offers dinners most Friday nights during the school year. The updated dinner schedule can be found on their website.
“Friday Night Shabbat gives families the opportunity to enjoy Friday night dinners with other like-minded families and make new friends, Gerson said. “Because it is entirely independent, there is a “no pressure” atmosphere at all our events.”
“We don’t have family in town and it’s nice to be able to celebrate Shabbat with a larger community,” parent Ann Weinstein said. “Plus, I don’t have to cook!”
Even though Friday Night Shabbat is an independent initiative, partnerships are key to its success. With major Cincinnati Jewish institutions lending a hand, FNS can offer a lot more.
“Shelly and I immediately realized that we would not be able to arrange all these dinners by ourselves. We contacted the institutions in our community that already have the capacity and experience to provide the dinners such as the Synagogues, Temples, the JCC, ish, Rockwern Academy and Café Alma, among others,” Zipkin said. “These institutions and their leadership all responded with a very enthusiastic ‘yes!’ From the beginning, the partner organizations have been the backbone of Friday Night Shabbat. They do the heavy lifting.”
Café Alma will open its space and cater the Friday Night Shabbat dinner on Friday, December 9. Food will be served buffet style and families can arrive to the informal event anytime between 5:30 and 8 p.m. There will be time for the kids to play and parents to chat, with no formal programming.