Idea of the Day: Non-religious Shabbat for non-religious Jews


JTA is soliciting readers’ ideas for reversing the tide of Jewish assimilation in America. Here’s today’s featured idea:

We need to foster family celebrations of Shabbat and holidays that are not specifically religious in nature, are held outside synagogues and impose no pressure to join anything.

Every Friday afternoon, pick a park, beach, or someone’s backyard and program 30-45 minutes of entertainment with an educational and spiritual component. The activities, which can include singing, games for the family or even puppet shows for the kids, can culminate with grape juice, challah and candles. Serve cookies. Print up some song sheets with transliterated Hebrew blessings and some English songs.

Ask for a donation of some non-perishable food to be donated to an organization feeding the hungry as the “price of admission” to such an event, but don’t harangue those who don’t bring anything.

This is a non-threatening, non-coercive, hassle-free time to do something Jewish together (but not too Jewish) on a Jewish occasion. These gatherings, which I call “Shabbat@ _____” can be simple, fun functions to introduce the idea of family and community around a time of physical relaxation and spiritual renewal.

There are many young families with children who are not interesting in coming into our synagogues. We must find them on neutral turf.

Rabbi Gerald B. Weiss
West Palm Beach, Florida

Read more ideas for stemming the tide of American Jewish disengagement here.

To share your idea, send an email describing one concrete idea in 200 words or less to (include your full name, city, and state or country). Our favorites will be featured online.

Recommended from JTA