Host Shabbat Your Way

Compared to a typical dinner party, hosting a Shabbat dinner may seem intimidating with the added element of Jewish traditions and rituals.

OneTable, supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, is a national nonprofit empowering and providing resources for young Jews between the ages of 21-39 to find, share and enjoy Shabbat dinners.

“Experimenting with and claiming ownership over these practices is part of what it means to be Jewish. Start with one or two rituals, maybe wine and challah. Go from there,” OneTable stated. “Remember, Shabbat happens every week. There’s going to be another chance for you to host, and many opportunities to expand your ritual repertoire.”

To navigate the main Shabbat traditions, OneTable breaks up the meal into five sections to help guide beginners. See below for more tips and tricks that will help you enhance your Shabbat hosting experience.



Officially end the workweek and welcome the weekend by lighting two or more candles.

Light your Shabbat candles in any way you feel comfortable. There’s no right or wrong way to approach ritual; there are simply options. If you light with your guests, you can set the table with multiple tea lights and matchbooks. You can invite everyone to light one or two and say the blessing or share a reflection together. As a host, you are able to light on behalf of everyone present and lead the blessing or offer an intention.


Wine serves as a conduit to sanctify the seventh day of the week, the time of Shabbat, as “other,” set apart from the daily grind of the other six days.

Often one person recites or chants kiddush on behalf of everyone present. Short or long, that’s a tall order. It is undeniably intimidating to stand up in front of your guests to make kiddush.

Framing kiddush in terms of toasting is a perfect way to step into ritual without feeling stepped on. Another approach is to explain the tradition of kiddush, then go around the table and invite each guest to say, as they raise their glass to the weekend, what they’re putting down from the week. At the end, you can raise your glasses and toast together, l’chaim (to life).


A formal practice of washing hands that recalls an ancient practice during Temple times when Shabbat was accompanied by special offerings.

Invite your guests to the kitchen sink. Even if you’re familiar with the blessing, it’s a good idea to have a copy of it by the sink as a prompt for your guests. As a mark of hospitality, many people will place the empty cup back under the tap and begin to refill it for the person behind them in line.


Breaking bread makes a meal, and Shabbat is a time to enjoy a special braided bread called challah that just might steal the show.

On many tables you will find two loaves of challah. Also, challah French toast is the best, so don’t feel pressure to make it through both loaves in one sitting. Pass it, rip it, cut it, tear into it like you mean it. There’s no right or wrong, as long as the bread makes its way around the table. It is common to dip the pieces of challah into salt before sharing.


Friday night is a time when you can end your meal the same way you started it, with intention.

Shabbat dinner doesn’t end when the food runs out or the drinks stop flowing. Shabbat dinner ends when you walk your guests to the door. It’s a last act of ritual hospitality, and one that makes hosting on Shabbat so deeply rooted in Jewish practice. As Maimonides wrote: “The reward you receive for accompanying guests on their way is greater than for all other mitzvot. Our sages teach that showing hospitality for guests is the greatest expression of gratitude.”



Source: OneTable Shabbat Diner Guide. To read more, visit

Each Shabbat is a sacred opportunity, but there is a very special Shabbat just around the corner in honor of Israel 75. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Jewish organizations and community members are invited to host or attend a gathering on the Shabbat of April 28-29, 2023 at Each participant ages 21-45 can sign up for their Shabbat experience through OneTable – hosts can specify their details and attendees can choose a host that best fits their preferences at