by Robyn Cohen, Director, PJ Library in Philadelphia

When I was younger our family enjoyed celebrating Shabbat with family friends. Together we sat around the table, enjoyed delicious chicken soup, shared stories and laughed. I always loved the beautiful ceramic napkin rings, smiling faces and the warm conversation that drifted throughout the house long after dinner ended.

I decided when my kids were born that I wanted to make Shabbat dinner every week. However, throughout the years, it hasn’t always looked the same. When my children were very young, our meals were shorter because they went to sleep early. Some weeks our dinner is more elaborate, while other meals might feature prepared food, but either way, our family enjoys being around the Shabbat table.

I am so excited that Shabbat is our jkidphilly theme for February! Especially at this cold time of year, there is nothing warmer than being with family and friends. Shabbat means something different to everyone. What traditions do you enjoy? For me, Shabbat is not really about the food- it is about the gift of time. Enjoying my immediate family, and spending time with our guests recharges me for the entire week. It is everything that I love about vacation- but instead of traveling, I am transported by sitting around the table, lingering around our meal, and enjoying time together. It is not about being perfect; it is not about difficult recipes. It is about turning a Friday night dinner into Shabbat with company, and turning the glow of Shabbat candles into a warmth throughout the night.

Shabbat is not really about the food- it is about the gift of time.

Shabbat is also a great way to spend time with our kids. My children enjoy braiding the challah dough or making place cards. We look forward to this weekly time together creating special memories and traditions. Would you like to learn how to make challah? We have four challah making programs all around Greater Philadelphia this month. It will be delicious! Check out the links below. We would love to see you!

Shabbat is precious time together, and while I want the food to enhance the experience, I don’t want it to be an obstacle to having it. Just recently a jkidphilly mom told me that she called two friends and asked one to pick up pizza, and another to bring a salad. She pulled a challah out of her freezer, and together these three families enjoyed Shabbat together. So whether you enjoy making your grandmother’s recipes, bringing in prepared food, or cooking your family’s favorites, the smells, smiles, and time together are what make it memorable.

A jkid enjoying making challah. Click here to see his step by step picture guide!