On Friday, October 25, at Rosalind’s in Little Ethiopia, 20 young adults were experiencing a different kind of Shabbat dinner: after some mingling, they gathered around a long table set with candles, wine, and beneath an ornate cover, loaves of challah. These traditional Jewish items were soon joined by enjera, Ethiopian bread used as a utensil for eating, as well as a number of steaming vegetarian dishes. On Friday, November 15, a group of 32 young adults converged on Culver City favorite AKASHA; the group dined in a semi-private area on a special vegetarian Shabbat menu prepared by Chef Akasha Richmond, incorporating her celebrated farm-to-table values.
“This is the perfect time for us to be meeting others like ourselves who also enjoy participating in Jewish events,” stated Danielle Kreinik-Siegel, who attended the October edition of the new Shabbat Out LA program. “With this type of event we are able to build relationships with likeminded people.” Michelle Berkowitz, who recently moved to Los Angeles, was experiencing LA as a “difficult city to navigate socially,” but found that “at Shabbat Out LA at AKASHA, I was able to meet other Jewish young adults as we shared a delicious and creative meal at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for months! An evening that combines Jewish traditions, new friends and amazing food is the perfect night for me.”
“Connection through food is a huge part of Jewish culture,” noted Marisa Kaplan, the Director of JCC Without Walls, a partnership between the JCC Development Corporation and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which aims to create meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults throughout the city of Los Angeles and crafted the Shabbat Out LA program. “Shabbat Out LA brings Jewish life to people where they are, allowing young adults a monthly opportunity to connect through Jewish tradition, but adding a modern twist by experiencing Shabbat in a public space at local restaurants. It’s an outside-the-box Shabbat experience.” Shabbat Out LA is also part of NuRoots, Federation’s community-wide strategy to create hubs of Jewish life and communities throughout Los Angeles.
Sometimes, participants stumble into unexpected Jewish connections. At Rosalind’s, as the restaurant owner welcomed the group, he explained that today’s recipe for enjera incorporates certain grains because of access to tools or resources encountered by the Ethiopian Jews who migrated to Israel. Even though, he added, most of today’s enjera is produced in Idaho, the recipe often still bears the imprint of the Ethiopian migration to Israel. (To read more about the Jews of Ethiopia, read this article at the Jewish Federations of North America website.)
Kaplan gained additional programmatic inspiration from collaborating with Lisa Grissom, the LA director of Reboot, a national network of young creative Jews that encourages grappling with identity, community and meaning on their own terms. The two met through the NextGen Engagement Initiative, another program of the Jewish Federation that launched four years ago with the help of a Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation; Kaplan partnered with Reboot on content. “In addition to discussing the symbolism of Shabbat, Lisa encouraged me to utilize connecting through food with family, and expanding ‘family’ to mean community,’” Kaplan said.
“Shabbat Out is so much more than Shabbat dinner,” Kaplan said. “However you connect, join us for dinner.”
Register for the December 13 dinner at C&O Trattoria by the Venice Pier. For more information about future JCC Without Walls programs, contact Marisa Kaplan at firstname.lastname@example.org.