Pearlstone, OneTable partnership brings new Shabbat experience to Baltimore

OneTable event in New York City in 2017
OneTable event in New York City in 2017 (Courtesy of OneTable)

Baltimore-area residents who need a helping hand with hosting or joining a Shabbat meal at the end of the week are about to receive it, thanks to a new partnership between The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, the Pearlstone Center and OneTable, a national nonprofit that facilitates the organizing of Shabbat dinners.

“OneTable is a platform that allows people in their 20s and 30s looking to connect with Shabbat the opportunity to use resources and find a community to do that,” said Jessica Layton, a local field manager at OneTable. “You can become a host through our website, and our staff, and specifically your local field manager, will then connect with you and see what you need support with so that you can then host your own Shabbat.”

In addition to hosting Shabbat meals, users can also apply to attend Shabbat meals hosted by others, in either case creating new local Jewish communities, added Layton, who is based in Washington, D.C.

OneTable’s new Baltimore hub hosted its first Shabbat dinner in partnership with Pearlstone on Dec. 3.

Founded in 2014 by CEO Aliza Kline, OneTable offers six different dinner types, explained Eva Laporte, director of marketing and communications. These include in-person, indoor, outdoor, solo and virtual options. Lastly is the option to attend an in-person Shabbat meal organized and hosted by OneTable staff themselves.

“So in all of our regions around the country … we have field managers, just like Jess [Layton], who will host and get folks together to meet one another, to build community and also to practice,” said Laporte, a resident of San Antonio, Texas, who attends services at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio. “Practice hospitality, learn about ritual, things like that.”

OneTable is also there to answer users’ questions on how to hold a Shabbat that is meaningful to them, said Layton. Some have asked her how they can integrate Chanukah in a Shabbat meal, while others have inquired on how a Shabbat dinner can be meaningful for queer participants and allow them to explore their identities.

The ability to hold online Shabbat dinners through the platform helps account for OneTable’s “skyrocketing” participation during the pandemic, said Laporte. And with the gradual easing of social distancing, in-person Shabbat dinners have started up again as well. By 2021, OneTable had filled over half a million seats for its events, she said.

As part of OneTable’s new partnership with Pearlstone and The Associated, OneTable users opting to be hosts will now be able, on specific dates, to select Pearlstone catering as one of their “nourishment options,” said Layton. Those who do will then be able to pick up a prepared meal from the Pearlstone catering hall and then either bring it back home to serve to any guests, or to host their meal on Pearlstone’s property, perhaps as a picnic.

Laporte explained how OneTable emphasizes the “weekly cadence of the holiday, every single week, where you have a chance to unplug, to connect with yourself and to others, through your Jewish journey.”

Layton expressed a similar viewpoint on the importance of Shabbat and how OneTable can serve the experience.

“I feel that how OneTable really makes Shabbat special is utilizing it as the cornerstone to building your Jewish life,” Layton said. “It provides a kind of cadence to your week, which I think a lot of our hosts found really meaningful, especially during the pandemic and while quarantining. It allows us an opportunity to set aside time in our week to approach with intention, and really to break up the days in the week in a way that’s special and allows us to connect.”

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