Rabbinical group urges religious to host secular friends on Shabbat

Beit Hillel rabbinical association says initiative is meant to build bridges between different sectors of society.

October 6, 2013 21:37
2 minute read.
Jewish woman lights the Shabbat candles

Jewish woman lights the Shabbat candles 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)


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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 Shabbat meal.

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.

Beit 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.”

The organization 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 society.”

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 hotline.

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 people.

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 event.

“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.

The 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.

Beit 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.

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