A Beautiful Observation on the ‘Virtue’ of Hospitality

 

“Hospitality is a bridge to all the great

 

virtues, but it is immediately accessible.

 

You don’t have to love or forgive or feel

 

compassion to extend hospitality. But

 

it’s more than an invitation. It is the

 

creation of a safe, inviting, trustworthy

 

space — an atmosphere as much as

 

a place. It shapes the experience to

 

follow. It creates the intention, the

 

spirit, and the boundaries for what

 

is possible. As creatures, it seems,

 

we imagine a homogeneity in other

 

groups that we know not to be there

 

in our own. But new social realities

 

are brought into being over time by a

 

quality of relationship between unlikely

 

combinations of people. When in doubt,

 

practice hospitality”

 

 

 

From Krista Tippett

 

A Preview of a Hanukkah Seder in 8 Parts

Here is a preview of our Hanukkah Seder in 8 parts which will take place on Friday, 12/15.  This was written by the chef, Emily Moore, and me in 2006.  Send me a note if you are interested in the text of the “haggadah”.  For more information and signup links for the event, CLICK HERE.
Hanukkah and History:
The Meaning of Hanukkah through Olive Oils and Artisan Breads
An Original Seder of 8 Dippings with 8 Questions
With Shabbat and Hanukkah Music and Song by the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble
 Part 1
1st Dipping: Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Pumpkin Bread
1st Question: What was the Miracle of Hanukkah?
Part 2
2nd Dipping: Greek Olive Oil with Greek Pita
2nd Question: How was Hanukkah a Cultural/Religious War?
Part 3
3rd Dipping: Burnt Almond Oil with Lavash
3rd Question: What was the Cause of the Maccabean Revolt?
Part 4
4th Dipping: Robust Olive Oil with Bitter Aftertaste with Rosemary Bread
4th Question: Why Did Some Jews Choose Martyrdom?
Part 5
5th Dipping: Canola Oil with Cardamom and Sumac and Dark Rye
5th Question: Why Did Other Jews Choose Resistance?
Part 6
6th Dipping: Chile Infused Olive Oil with Roasted Garlic Bread
6th Question: Were the Maccabees Heroes or Zealots?
Part 7
7th Dipping: Lemon Infused Olive Oil with Rose Water and Challah
7th Question: What are the Historical Lessons of Hanukkah?
Part 8
8th Dipping: Rich Fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Banana Walnut Bread.
8th Question: What are the Lessons of Hanukkah for Our Time?

December 2017 Message from Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

December 2017 Message from Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
Let’s get ready for Hanukah which starts on Tuesday evening, December 12th.  Panim Hadashot-New Faces holds a Hanukah celebration on Friday, December 15th with a unique Hanukah Seder, Shabbat meal, and our signature Shabbat Musical Table.  Our Hanuakah Seder will feature live music from the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble. The seder is in 8 brief parts, each featuring a combination of bread and olive oil blends and one illuminating text about the holiday. We will have child care and will once again offer a bountiful Shabbatluck.  Here are the Links: Shabbatluck RSVP. Childcare RSVP
We are busy planning for a great 2018 year.  I am planning on introducing some new hosting formats for our Shabbat Hospitality Program which will enable you to choose from more than 3 options including a “Shabbat Salon” format to a family Shabbat concert.  Stay tuned.
Another plan in the works is a musical Shabbat morning service following the success of our High Holiday musical services which blended traditional prayer leading with live music and participatory singing that enhanced the liturgy.
We will also be offering a new singing circle in collaboration with the Stroum Jewish Community Center starting in mid January and a collaboration with Moishe House.
 
There are two events outside Panim Hadashot that I strongly recommend you to consider.  The first is coming up very soon, but if you have the time and funds to go to the Community Singing Intensive with Joey Weisenberg, I cannot recommend it more enthusiastically. I will be going again.  It is a life changing four days of Jewish community singing led by a brilliant composer and teacher.  It has the qualities of a spiritual retreat, an inspiring religious service, and a mesmerizing singalong.
 
The other event is our first Limmud Seattle taking place on January 13-14th 2018.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to participate in unique Jewish learning experience with dozens of great teachers and the participation of people from all over the Jewish community.  I will be among the teachers participating.  Please join me and support this wonderful initiative.
 
Lastly, I hope you will support Panim Hadashot-New Faces  with a year end gift or an annual subscription. As you can see above, we are growing and thriving.  We want you to be a part of it!
Happy Hanukkah,
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, Convener and Director
Panim Hadashot-New Faces

Participation in Panim Hadashot-New Faces Initiatives Metrics from October 2016 through October 16, 2017

  1. Shabbat Hosting Partnerships: In this program we team up with hosts all around Seattle to hold Shabbat hospitality events in their homes with our Heart of Shabbat Ensemble. Hosts organize a meal and invite guests and new faces. Panim Hadashot-New Faces brings a joyful Shabbat experience with music, storytelling, and conversation.

Results: During the past year we held nineteen Shabbat Hosting Partnership events in Mercer Island, Clyde Hill, Redmond, Meadowbrook, View Ridge, Kirkland, West Seattle, Capitol Hill, Ballard, Leschi, Queen Anne, Madrona, Riviera, Hawthorne Hills, Burien, and Brier. Eleven of the hosts were affiliated with synagogues. Nine of the hosts were not affiliated. Our hosts ranged from secular to Conservative Jews. Numbers Attending: 421 

  1. Panim Hadashot-New Faces Community Events: These events featured the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble. They were either free or offered at low cost to the community. They included a monthly community Shabbat service starting in February, a monthly Shabbat in the park in the summer, a complete set of High Holidays services, and special holiday celebrations. Our community events were held at Works Progress in Greenwood, Carkeek Park in the summer, and the the Seattle Jewish Community School in Pinehurst during the High Holidays and Sukkot.

We had seventeen community events or services during the above-mentioned period. We started doing community events in February 2017 to complement our Shabbat Hosting Events. This enabled our hosts, guests, from the Shabbat Hospitality Partnership events to participate in a regular and open to all Friday evening service. During this time, we also developed a signature musical service and broadened our repertoire. Most important we shared our hospitable and welcoming approach.   Numbers Attending: 383

  1. Ignition Grant, Embracing New Faces Events: Panim Hadashot-New Faces was awarded a $5,000 grant in February 2016

Eleven out of twelve grant related events have taken place This grant helped us to bring the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble to seniors, persons with special needs, and other Jewish communities on the margins. Seniors: The Summit on First Hill (2), Kline-Galland Home, Aegis Living on Queen Anne, JFS Russian Seniors program. Special Needs: Alpha Supported Living Communities on the Margins or Under Resourced: Beth Shirah in Port Townsend, Beth Israel in Bellingham, the Kehilah Havurah in Woodinville, and the Secular Jewish Circle, and Moishe House in Seattle. Numbers Attending:   385

  1. Community Collaborations: These are events in which we were hired by Jewish organizations to bring our approach and music to a special occasions they organized.  

The UW Hillel, Camp Solomon Schechter, and Congregation Kol Haneshamah hired the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble to do special projects related to music, prayer, or hospitality. We anticipate this number going up in the coming year as the community becomes more familiar with us. Numbers Attending: 195

Other Metrics:

Total number of events: 49

Total numbers of attendees: 1384

Numbers of Guests Who Became Hosts: 3

Number of Hosts Unaffiliated with Synagogues: 8

Number of Israeli American Hosts: 2

Number of Hosts Requesting Repeats: 4

 

Build Sukkot, Not Walls-A Celebration-Protest by my Colleagues

From Haaretz, 10/9/17

Claiming that the president’s “anti-welcome” policies are antithetical to Jewish and American values, two dozen rabbis – men and women covered in prayer shawls – walked Monday morning from Central Park to Trump Tower, widely known as White House North. Once in front of the building, they quickly stretched out a small, symbolic sukkah and topped it with a wooden cover as required by tradition.

“Welcoming guests is an integral part of the holiday of Sukkot,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, a 1,800-member network of rabbis and cantors.

“President Trump’s executive orders and other policies break up families, turn refugees away from our shores – the very opposite of the sense of welcome that has defined our country’s history.”

CLICK HERE for the full article in Haaretz.

As the festival of Sukkot draws to a close, I wanted to highlight the way that the practice of hospitality which is central to its observance extends beyond the walls of our Sukkot.  Panim Hadashot-New Faces’ mission is to revitalize Shabbat and other forms of Jewish hospitality.  Our commitment to this act of lovingkindness also influences the way we regard the debate over immigration policies in the US.  Jews have benefited enormously from this country’s immigration laws in the past.  We also saw the calamity when immigration laws became too restrictive.  As leader of Panim  Hadashot, I strenuously object to the emergent policies of this administration.  I hope that the festival of Sukkot will help us to renew our resistance to these policies and to support approaches that are more generous and fair minded.

As we linger in the Sukkah over Shemini Atzeret, which begins this evening, may we reflect on ways we can add our voice to the advocates of decent and more immigration policies and to those working to secure the ability of DACA recipients to remain in the US without fear.  Hag Sameah,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

 

Sukkot Message 2017

Sukkot is called in the liturgy “the season of our joy”-zman simchateinu. Honestly, it does not feel in the world as a season of joy. Our hearts go out to the devastated inhabitants of Puerto Rico and to the victims and their families of the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. (Please continue to donate tzedaka to help them.) Everyday we are confronted with a leadership crisis we never could have imagined last year at Sukkot. And so many more events around the world challenge any sense of joy we could attain.
However, the traditions around Sukkot exhibit an understanding about how troubled our world is as well as the need to dig deeper for the joy that is at the heart of this festival. The “book” of this festival is Ecclesiastes-Kohelet which is easily one of the most dark books of the Hebrew Scriptures. It’s tone of weariness about the world seems completely out of synch with the description of the holiday as a period of joy.
Many have reflected about the asymmetry of reading Kohelet during Sukkot. My take on this pairing is that Sukkot asks us to find joy through simple gratitude while we acknowledge the realities of the world we live in. We find joy in the appreciation of shelter, of our enduring relationships of family and friends, of the joy of sharing our bounty with strangers and guests. The humbling act of building or eating in or even residing in a temporary booth-sukkah can bring to us an awareness of the basic conditions that enable us to live with gratitude. “Who is rich? Ben Zoma asks in Pirkei Avot, “those that are content with their portion.”
Sukkot is the festival of hospitality-hachnasat orchim. It is a great mitzvah to invite guests into the Sukkah. Our tradition considers hospitality the joy of doing a mitzvah-“simchah shel mitzvah.” I believe this relational dimension of Sukkot is key to understanding joy. We find joy in active connection with others. Sharing our table, our homes, our sukkot is a basic ingredient for joy.
Panim Hadashot-New Faces is an organization that is centered around Jewish hospitality practices. We view hospitality all year around as not only an way to personal joy, but a practice that improves the world and brings joy to others. I love Sukkot for this reason. It demands that we acknowledge the world around us, but that we not succumb to despair. We start building the joy from within most temporary structures and build outward from there.  Similarly, we build the joy within ourselves and extend it to others in an ever expanding circle.
I wish you a joyous festival and the strength to build resistance to despair from the difficulties of the world.
May you be worthy of a Sukkat Shalom, a Sukkah of peace,
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Please Invite Us to Your Home for Shabbat!

September 2017, Elul 5777

 To my fellow Jews,  

Please invite us to your home for Shabbat!  I know this sounds hutzpidik (audacious), but we would like to team up with you to create a wonderful experience of Sabbath joy and to share with you the beautiful practice and mitzvah of Shabbat hospitality. I invite you to become a host and to team up with us to be a Shabbat Hospitality Partner.  

We do something unique. We team up with hosts all around Seattle to celebrate an experience of Sabbath joy through home hospitality, music and song, and engaging conversation around a Shabbat meal.   We add one ‘Hiddush’ (innovation) to this ancient Jewish tradition.  We utilize master musicianship to share and sing melodies from the great treasure house of acapella Shabbat music with you and your guests. We can also share much more, including Israeli and contemporary Jewish music (and American masters such as Dylan, Cohen, and Simon)

As a Shabbat Hospitality Partner, we offer for your Shabbat home event our gifted musicians of the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble.  I’m part of the ensemble as a singer, teacher, and a facilitator of timely discussions.

Shabbat Hospitality Partners invite their circle of family and friends and a couple of new faces (acquaintances or people outside your circle of friends. Hence our name).  We can come to your home on a Friday or Saturday evenings (Havdallah) and even on Festivals such as the upcoming holidays of Sukkot and Hanukah.   

We do not charge hosts to host because we want to show how wonderful it is to practice the ancient Jewish traditions of hospitality. Nor do we insist that your kitchen be a certain way.  Rather, we want to make it easier for people to do Shabbat Hospitality and to experience what Shabbat can be.  Whether you are an experienced Shabbat host or someone who has never hosted, we believe that this experience will be precious and inspiring to you and your guests.   

During these troubled times, we cannot think of anything more important than to bring folks together and raise their spirits, and renew their hope to make the world a better place.  

All the information you need to learn about how Shabbat Hospitality Partnerships work is in this online guide including a way to RSVP and setup your event.   We have dates open through February 2018. We recommend that you RSVP soon to get your preferred date.   

Let me know if you are interested in becoming a Shabbat Hospitality Partner.

Thanks for considering this unique opportunity to share in a mitzvah.  Shannah Tovah, 

 Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces

Charlottesville

The racism and the anti-Semitism of the white nationalists marchers in Charlottesville must be loudly condemned and marginalized.  The car ramming must be designated as a terrorist attack just like similar events perpetrated by ISIS terrorists.  The President has lost credibility with his silence. We must look to other leaders to speak with moral clarity.

Instead of repeating what so many have said over the past day, I am sharing the best piece I read about the terrible events in the Charlottesville.  It comes from a Slate writer who lives in the community. She speaks for me and I hope everyone who reads this.

Link 

 

Who will be Serene and Who Will be Troubled: A Rabbi and Family Member Speaks about Mental Illness

Who Will Be Serene and Who Will Be Troubled?

A Rabbi and a Family Member Speaks about Mental Illness

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Adapted for Congregation Beth Shalom, Shabbat August 5, 2017

 

I would like to dedicate this derasha to two family members. First I dedicate my words in honor of my son, Mori Gartenberg who turned 30 this week. His name means God is my teacher and he has taught me much about the meaning and purpose of life. Second, I share these words in memory of my brother, Philip who left this world thirty years ago this month. Zichrono Livracha.

At the height of the most dramatic and intense prayer of these Days of Awe, Unetaneh Tokef, we chant a litany of fateful dyads — “who shall live and who shall die.” This litany of existential disjunctions is a record of the anxieties of our ancestors. It provides us with a glimpse into their lives, their yearnings, and their fears. Three out of twelve of the dyads attract my attention today.

Who will be at peace and who will be troubled? מי ינוח ומי ינוע

Who will be serene and who will be disturbed? מי ישקיט ומי יטרף

Who will be tranquil and who will be tormented? ומי ישלו ומי יתיסר

These somberly contemplated fates all revolve around an ancient fear — the fear of what we today call mental illness.

There was no word for mental illness in antiquity. Like the fear of death, the fear of succumbing to mental anguish and suffering is part of our reality, just as it was for them. While we know much more about mental illness than our ancestors, we have, like them, found no lasting cure.

Mental illness is part of my reality. Five living members of my family cope with bipolar disorder. I lost my brother, Philip to suicide thirty years ago from undiagnosed bipolar disorder this month.

Caring for a loved one living with mental illness is very taxing. The illness is unpredictable and disrupting. Witnessing a family member experience a psychotic episode is so disorienting that you don’t even recognize the loved one you thought you knew so well. More chronic conditions include disabling depressions or dangerous manias that lead to grandiosity. Then there are the frequent hospitalizations and the struggle to get information from medical personnel about your loved one’s condition. You live with the fear of the telephone call which brings news of a new crisis.

Mental illness is a family condition. Anyone here who has cared for a loved one living with mental illness or who lives with a mental illness knows that. During an episode of serious mental illness, a person loses her capacity to engage in basic activities of daily living. A psychotic episode can force even an adult into a condition of unwanted dependency on family members.

Mental illnesses are chronic illnesses. Consider a few startling facts about mental illness in America gathered by the NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

  • One in five adults − approximately 43.8 million Americans − experiences mental illness in a given year. One in twenty-five − about 13.6 million − lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.
  • Approximately twenty percent of youth ages thirteen to eighteen experience severe mental disorders in a given year.

 

  • One half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of fourteen; three quarters by age twenty-four.       Despite effective treatment, there are long delays − sometimes decades − between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.

 

  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. (more common than homicide) and the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four. More than ninety percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders.

 

  • Although military members comprise less than one percent of the U.S. population, veterans represent twenty percent of suicides nationally. Each day, about twenty-two veterans die from suicide.[i]

 

  • Another huge problem in this country is addiction. Approximately 10.2 million people suffer from co-occuring mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction..

Five years ago, while living in Alaska, I became the director of the Juneau affiliate of NAMI. NAMI is the largest grassroots organization supporting, educating, and advocating on behalf of those living with mental illness and their families. Working for NAMI opened my eyes to the pervasiveness and devastating impacts of mental illness. It has also helped me become a better rabbi and human being.

Jewish religious tradition and culture have a complex relationship to mental health. We know about biblical figures who suffered from mental illness, such as King Saul or Samson.   In rabbinic Jewish culture, the word for someone with a mental disability is ‘Shoteh’. Words like Shoteh carry a cluster of meanings. Shoteh could describe someone suffering from profound mental illness or a person who is intellectually disabled. In rabbinic literature, it can also refer to a fool, an idolater, or a child savant with prophetic gifts.

The Shoteh in rabbinic law was legally stigmatized. In rabbinic literature, the Shoteh is often grouped together with deaf-mutes and minors. A Shoteh, like members of the latter two categories, was exempted from the observance of the commandments. The Shoteh was not permitted to represent the community in any form, including serving as a prayer leader.   According to the rabbis, these categories of persons lacked the capacity for Da’at, or discernment, a complex rabbinic term for the capacity for basic reasoning and decision making. [ii]

But a Shoteh, a mentally troubled person, could regain a normative legal status if he recovered his senses. It seems that the ancients also recognized, as we do today, that mental illness can be episodic.

Rabbinic tradition has also bequeathed to us blessings to recite when we encounter someone with a physical or mental disability.   If you encounter a person who was born with a disability such as Down Syndrome, the proper blessing would be, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe who creates such varied creatures.” However, when you encounter someone with a late-onset disability, such as an injury or an illness, you say the same blessing we say upon hearing of a death: “Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, the True judge.”

The late Judith Abrams, a scholar on the topic of disability in Judaism, commented that the choice of two blessings reflects the view that, on the one hand, a disability could be any of several common conditions that one could be born with. But, on the other hand, if the condition were to emerge later, it would be seen as a punishment by God. Since many serious mental illnesses appear in young adulthood, the blessing “baruch dayan emet” according to the sources is the proper blessing.   To me, the ancient practice of reciting this blessing is, morally and theologically, deeply troubling. [iii]

Older halachah also stigmatized suicide, which we know today is most often an outcome of serious mental illness. The suicide victim historically was to be buried outside the community cemetery.

While some of the ancient sources about mental illness and disability are distressing, there is another strain in our culture and tradition that has courageously faced this issue. It is interesting that many of the pioneers in the fields of mental health and brain science in the past couple of centuries have been Jews, such as the Nobel Prize-winning brain scientist, Eric Kandel. One of the key insights of these scientists and theorists of modernity is that mental illness is a brain disorder, that it is treatable, and that the terrible stigma found across cultures about mental conditions needs to be resisted and vanquished.

Reform, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox Judaism have made major halachic reforms in removing stigma about mental illness, including ending the practice of stigmatizing the victim of suicide, mandating the need for treatment, and portraying God as compassionate and as seeking the welfare of those who suffer from mental illness. After all, the Torah also commands that we are not to curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind (Leviticus 19). The Rabbis did not interpret this verse narrowly, but extended it beyond “blindness” and “deafness” to any limiting condition that humans suffer from. We are not to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of those living with mental illness. Rather, we are required by tradition and contemporary moral awareness to extend compassion, hope, and access to healing and recovery to those who suffer.

Because of the stigma of mental illness, there are many more individuals who suffer than we know about – many, indeed, within our congregations. A friend and religious colleague of mine, who suffers from bipolar disorder, aptly called mental illness the “no casserole illness.” When a person gets cancer or suffers a major injury, the Mitzvah Corps mobilizes to bring food to the sick person and his or her family. But, for several reasons, those who live with mental illness and their families tend to suffer in isolation, sometimes of their own choosing, sometimes due to the insensitivity of the community.

I speak about this openly with the hope of reducing stigma and increasing hope for those among us who live with mental illness, and for those family members and friends present who are helping them.

This week’s portion is also called Nahamu, based on the first verse of the Haftarah, “Be comforted, be comforted, my people.” My work with NAMI taught me that people living with mental illness and those courageous family members who care for them need hope and comfort.

Every one of us knows someone living with a mental illness. Tell your friend or your loved one about NAMI. NAMI offers incredible resources for a person struggling with mental illness that supplement therapy.   If you are a close friend or family member of a loved one living with mental illness, consider the resources that NAMI provides for family members. I am a trained volunteer peer teacher of NAMI’s award-winning Family-to-Family course. Over 300,000 family members have taken this free course offered by NAMI affiliates across the country.

Please let people know that JFS is offering a Family to Family course in the fall in concert with NAMI of Greater Seattle. I am one of the teachers of this free course. The course gives vital information about diagnosis, medication, current science, treatment options, and lots of time for family members to talk about their situations.   I will address specific issues that arise for Jewish families when a loved one suffers from disabling mental illness. I have taught this class now six times and have seen individuals and families transformed by the experience.   Please share this information with friends who you think would benefit.

There are other things each of us can do to be more knowledgeable about this pervasive condition. Consider taking mental health first-aid training to learn more about how to recognize mental illness and suicidal signs, and to help a person who is suffering a mental breakdown or is showing subtle signs of depression.

Make sure that Beth Shalom is not only responsive to those who suffer physical illness, but also responsive to those who are struggling with mental illness, and to the families who are trying to care for them. Fight stigma against mental illness in any way you can. Make sure your care and your casseroles are available for all.

I remember when, many years ago, a loved one in my family was hospitalized due to a severe depressive episode. He was so sick and in such pain that I hardly recognized him. At the most distressing moment, one of the aides saw the distress on my face and took me aside. He told me, “It will not always be like this. Your loved one will find a way out of this.” I will always remember those words of hope and encouragement.

That is what we should do: provide hope, support, and encouragement for those we know who face this enormous challenge.   As it says at the end of Unetaneh Tokef, “Teshuvah, tefilah, and tzedaka maavirin et roa hagezera.” I translate it here to mean, “By turning toward, by advocating, and by generous, righteous, and caring acts, we diminish the severity of the decree.”   We have the power to make a difference and bring hope to those who suffer. What we do makes a difference.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

 

[i] From the NAMI Fact Sheet, “About Mental Illness”

[ii] From Judith Abrams, Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli, Chapter 6.

[iii] Abrams, p. 118-119

What is Jewish Hospitality?

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is a community focused on the practice of Jewish hospitality. The Jewish hospitality traditions go back to Abraham and Sarah in chapter 18 of the Book of Genesis. Abraham greets and feeds guests soon after he had circumcised himself. The Rabbis saw his readiness to welcome guests even when he was physically uncomfortable as an indication of his extraordinary kindness. In rabbinic literature, the act of hospitality (hachnasat orchim) is greatly cherished and is regarded as a sign of good character and generosity.

The term “panim hadashot”-new faces is found in the Talmud to refer to the practice of inviting people in the community to share in the joy of bride and groom by inviting them to the ancient tradition of seven days of feasting and singing for the bride and groom following a wedding. The guests at these parties had to be new faces who had not attended the wedding celebration. The purpose of inviting new faces was to share joy and abundance with others beyond the bride and groom’s family and friends.  We draw inspiration from this old hospitality tradition.  We reintroduce this practice to modern Jews by helping households to practice home hospitality and the making our Sabbath and Festival tables a welcoming space for new faces-“panim hadashot.”

Jewish hospitality is associated with the observance of the Sabbath. It is traditional to invite guests to the home Sabbath table either on Friday evening or during the Sabbath day.  One sign of a strong synagogue community is an invitation to a newcomer at a home for a Sabbath meal after the service.

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is committed to reviving and adapting the Jewish hospitality traditions in our modern context in which Jewish households are spread out over a wide geographical area and many Jews are not observant or are regular synagogue attenders.   We see Shabbat home hospitality as a way to revitalize a sense of Shabbat in people’s lives. We do this by sharing with our hosts and their guests the best of Jewish music and teachings while opening up the joys of hospitality, relaxed conversation, and sharing a bountiful meal.     

Our hope is that our hosts will endeavor will also open their home to new faces, people outside their family and friendship circle. Welcoming the stranger is a very important feature of classical Jewish hospitality. When we practice hospitality we are able to share our Jewish values as an expression of living in a free, diverse society as well as to learn about the values of the those we host. In a troubled world where people talk of building walls, we wish to do the opposite.  The words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks express the vision guiding our understanding of Jewish hospitality in a world of diversity.

“There is all the difference in the world between the attempt to impose your faith on others and the willingness to share it with others. Our faiths are different. Judaism is not Christianity; Christianity is not Islam; the Abrahamic monotheisms are different from Eastern mysticisms on the one hand, scientific humanism on the other. Yet when we bring our respective heritages of wisdom to the public domain, we have no need to wish to convert others. Instead, we are tacitly saying, ‘if this speaks to you, then please take it as our gift.’ Indeed, it is yours already, for wisdom (unlike revelation) belongs to us all. The willingness non-coercively to share our several traditions of moral insight is, in a religiously plural culture, an essential part of the democratic conversation, indeed of societal beatitude.”