Jewish woman lights the Shabbat candles 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
The Beit Hillel rabbinical association has launched a project in which it will
encourage religious families around the country to host secular people for a
The organization says it is hoping that thousands of
families will take part in the program by inviting a neighbor, work colleague or
other acquaintance for Friday night dinner in two weeks time.
Hillel, a moderate Orthodox grouping, said the purpose of the initiative was to
build bridges between different sectors of society and to create a meeting point
between religious and secular people who live close to each other in order to
“protect societal cohesion in Israel” and to “position Shabbat as a communal
value and an essential component of Jewish identity.”
insisted that the goal was not to change the way of life of those participating
in the initiative but rather to provide a convenient platform for a shared
Shabbat meal for people to get to know better those from a different sector of
society, and to “discuss directly the challenges and issues in Israeli
The project will be promoted through an advertising campaign in
the press, on billboards, and on social media, and registration will be possible
on the Beit Hillel website, Facebook page or via a telephone
Registration is not required to participate, but if a family
wants to host but does not know anyone to invite, or alternatively if someone
wants to be hosted but has not been invited, Beit Hillel will match up such
Beit Hillel’s director Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth said that it was
important for as many people as possible to take part.
As many as 200
rabbis up and down the country are members of the Beit Hillel association, of
whom approximately 150 lead a congregation. The organization says that it
expects that several thousand people will participate in the nationwide
“Social processes and political changes that have occurred in
recent years prove that Israeli society is in a different and deeper place and
is open to this kind of initiative that can connect different sectors of the
population after years of ongoing division,” the rabbi said.
organization has previously issued guidelines for how religious people who
observe Jewish dietary laws could readily accept invitations to meals from
secular friends without compromising their observance of such laws.
Hillel said earlier this year that taking advantage of several possible
leniencies would allow an observant person to eat catered food from crockery and
cutlery in a nonreligious household, something that has traditionally been
considered highly problematic according to Jewish law.