Panim Hadashot-New Faces’ seeks to renew the tradition of Shabbat Hospitality. We work to facilitate this practice, especially in the liberal and secular Jewish communities. We recognize that the modern era has caused a sharp decline in this practice for several reasons: demography of Jewish households, decline in religious observance, the isolating impact of many new technologies among the most impactful.
However, we believe the home centered practices such as Shabbat hospitality and the fellowship of shared sacred feasts to be a unique part of Jewish tradition and a salve to our social isolation and relentless pace of life. We believe these experiences enhance community and build relationships. Most people in America understand spiritual as synonymous with an individual quest. Jewish spirituality, is unique, because it emphasizes relationship. Jewish spirituality often occurs in the encounter between two or more people. Jewish philosophers such as , Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas emphasized the relationship with the other as central to the Jewish teaching.
We have observed that the fellowship of the sacred feast is a great vehicle for meaningful encounters with others and to fostering empathy, concern, and true fellowship among people.
Our name, Panim Hadashot-New Faces (pronounced Paw-neem Chaw-daw-shote), comes from the Talmudic Jewish practice of inviting persons from the community, new faces, to celebratory feasts of a newly married couple in the week following their wedding ceremony. New Faces-strangers were required by tradition to be invited to these joyful feasts where the couple are feted with joyful singing. The reason behind this hospitality practice is to share the joy of our personal lives to an ever-widening circle.
In the Jewish mystical tradition, Panim Hadashot became a name for the Jewish Sabbath. Shabbat is imagined as a new face that we graciously meet each week. But more than that, we see sharing Shabbat as a form of sharing our homes, our food, our Sabbath joy with an ever-widening circle.
Our Place in the Jewish Community
Panim Hadashot-New Faces is not a synagogue. We do not function as a traditional congregation such as offering regular worship services and a religious school program. We do not have membership dues, a common feature of most synagogues.
Panim Hadashot-New Faces is also not affiliated with a specific Jewish movement. We are pluralistic in our outlook. Our Shabbat hosts come from Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Secular backgrounds.
While Panim Hadashot-New Faces is a very innovative model within the Jewish community, it does have precedent in Jewish tradition. We see ourselves as a “Gemach”.
What is a Gemach?
The Hebrew acronym, Gemach means “gemilut chasidim” (acts of loving kindness). A Gemach is a Jewish organization that focuses on supporting and spreading the practice of a particular act of loving kindness in the community. Jewish tradition views hospitality (hachnasat orchim) as one of the most praiseworthy acts of loving kindness. (Other acts of loving kindness in Jewish tradition include, visiting the sick, burying the dead, and dowering the bride among several others). Many of the people involved in our Gemach share a love for Shabbat and of Jewish traditions of hospitality. We want to see this act of loving kindness become more pervasive in our Jewish community.
Our Gemach, Panim Hadashot-New Faces promotes Shabbat hospitality with a singular passion. Our work in the community centers around encouraging people to host gatherings at their homes. We help both hosts and guests to adopt Shabbat hospitality as a “spiritual practice in their lives” by modeling the special activities that can be shared around a table such as music, song, Torah study, timely conversation, and the empathy of hospitality.
Who Panim Hadashot Serves in the Jewish Community
Panim Hadashot-New Faces serves the entire Jewish community. We support hosts who range from strongly affiliated synagogue Jews to those who have no connection to any Jewish organization. We engage cultural Jews, intermarried Jews and their partners as well as Jews who define themselves as religious or traditional.
Our Place in the Broader Community
Panim Hadashot-New Faces views the Shabbat Hospitality around the Sabbath meal as a spiritual practice that is uniquely conducive to sharing with people of other faiths, cultures, and political beliefs. The tradition of asking questions associated with the Passover Seder is integral to the Shabbat gathering as well. We value the Shabbat gathering as an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and the openness of our society especially in these polarizing times.