Home » Holidays » Expert Interview Series: Aliza Kline of OneTable About the Formality, Fellowship, and Food at Modern Day Shabbat Dinners

Expert Interview Series: Aliza Kline of OneTable About the Formality, Fellowship, and Food at Modern Day Shabbat Dinners

Shabbat dinners

Aliza Kline likes to build things; she serves as the founding executive director of OneTable, a new online and in-person community for millennials to end their week with intention and create unique Shabbat dinners. We recently caught up with Aliza to learn about the Shabbat tradition as well as the delicious foods which are often found at Friday night Shabbat dinners.

Tell us about your background. Why did you decide to create OneTable?

In my career, I have been the founding director of several programs and two organizations, especially in the realm of bringing rituals into our lives. Because I move fast, ritual helps me slow down and live more mindfully. For 10+ years, I worked with an incredible team to build Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh & Education Center in Boston, which reimagined the ancient ritual of immersion for contemporary times and needs. Now I am devoting my energy to OneTable, where I get to share my passion for the ritual of Friday night Shabbat dinner, an anchor in my life, with tens of thousands of people who are seeking a moment to slow down, connect with others, and enjoy good food and wine. What’s not to like?

What are some of the modern-day challenges associated with finding a Shabbat dinner to attend or today’s busy young professionals?

Millennials are constantly moving and investing their time in things they care about, and most are not seeking traditional Jewish community structures at this stage.  Some may not even know about the ritual of Shabbat dinner; and for those who are familiar, it may feel like an afterthought or something that they may do when they have a family of their own. Or perhaps they live in areas that don’t have huge Jewish populations, so there aren’t many resources readily available for them.

That’s where we come in. OneTable provides the platform for Jews in their 20s and 30s to find the right Friday night fit for them. They can choose a more traditional, religious dinner, or go to a karaoke Shabbat.

Describe a Friday night Shabbat dinner to someone who has never attended one before.

Friday night Shabbat dinner is different because it’s set with the intention of disconnecting from the typical routine and reconnecting with people whom you love. Practically, this can look like a lot of different things. Some hosts follow religious traditions which may include lighting candles, pouring water over their hands, making a blessing over wine, and breaking challah (sweet, braided bread) with guests. Others may break with traditions and modify the rituals to reflect their personal style. For example, they may raise a glass of wine or spirits and ask everyone to share something they are grateful for.

One of the beautiful things we’ve found at OneTable is that millennials are excited to make Shabbat their own. There have been pasta-making dinners, social justice-themed Shabbat dinners, and so much more.

What are some of the traditional foods that are often found at a Shabbat dinner?

Challah, the traditional Jewish bread, is a big one for Shabbat. Not only is it delicious and versatile, but it’s also beautiful. There are traditionally two of them; Shabbat is a time of abundance, not scarcity! Of course, there’s also wine.

What Shabbat foods might be more appealing to foodies than to the average person?

One of the great joys of Shabbat is that it can look like anything. Hosts can take the potluck route, or they can elevate the experience with multiple courses and trendy new recipes. I never grew up with gefilte fish or chicken soup; my family was more likely to make a cheese souffle.

Could you share a favorite recipe for a Shabbat dinner dish with us?

Here’s my mom’s challah recipe. I swear by it! (You will hear her voice in the instructions – she’s very supportive.)

Barbara Kline’s World Class Challah

Sponge:

1/2  tumbler size glass hot water

1 tbsp yeast (or 1 envelope) – regular, not rapid rise

2 tbsp sugar

(stir together and let it do its thing while you combine . . . )

8 cups unsifted, unbleached flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp salt

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour sponge (frothy head, liquid, and all) into it.  Cover sponge with some of the flour mixture.  Add to this . . .

4 beaten eggs

4 tbsp vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, etc.)

  • Combine well with wooden spatula or spoon.  Begin to knead by hand, adding water until all flour can be absorbed.  Add water a little at a time; the weather (dampness) determines whether you need a little or a lot.
  • Remove from bowl and continue kneading on a Formica or stainless steel counter until the dough is smooth and springy (like a baby’s bottom). Scrape the bowl clean.
  • Pour a little oil into the bowl and return kneaded dough to it, lightly coating all the dough with the oil. Cover with wax paper and let sit for at least four hours.
  • When the dough has risen double its original size, remove from bowl and punch down to get the air out.
  • Knead a little more.  Divide into three equal amounts for three challahs.

Braiding the challah:

  • Divide the dough into four equal amounts.  Set one lump aside and roll out three ropes with the remaining three lumps of dough. Braid these three ropes beginning in the middle, stretching the dough as you get to each end.  This will give your challah a lovely shape.
  • Repeat this process with the fourth lump that you had set aside, dividing that piece into three parts, rolling them into ropes, and braiding from the center out. Secure ends, and let rest for approximately 20 minuteson a greased cookie sheet.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • After this second rise, paint the challahs with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired.
  • Bake for 1/2 hour.  Remove from cookie sheet and continue baking for another 10 minutes, or until challah sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Remove from oven and let cool on baking rack.Shabbat Shalom! Eat and enjoy!!!

What types of wine are well-suited to be served at a Shabbat dinner?

Pinot Noirs are great because they are lighter reds and easier to pair with most foods. If you’re looking for a white, Pinot Gris is a favorite. Of course, it always depends on what food is being served. At a recent sushi Shabbat, the host served rice wine.

Some folks prefer kosher wines. These are getting better all the time; there are lots of good Israeli, Chilean, Italian, and (of course) Napa options.

Other than the food and beverages, what else goes into the planning of a Shabbat dinner?

It’s really about hospitality. Start with thinking about how you want your guests to feel at the end of the night. Let that guide you as you think about how to welcome your guests and the flow of the evening.

We try to make it as easy and fun as possible for hosts to plan their Shabbat dinners. Not only do we nourish the meals, but hub managers also connect with each host one-on-one and hosts can choose to be connected to Shabbat coaches. If they want to lead a more traditional Shabbat, our coaches can walk them through the process.

What is your prediction for the future of the Shabbat dinner tradition in the U.S.? 

We’ve seen a steady growth of young adults who are excited to build Shabbat into their weekly schedule. Our society doesn’t provide them with time to reflect and slow down, but Shabbat is a tool for exactly that. We’re already witnessing the dinner tradition evolving in the United States with young people making the ritual their own.

Looking for a tasty challah or another bakery item to give as a gift? Browse all our delicious bakery and dessert items today!