Who would have thought that two newly engaged twenty-somethings would be spending every Friday night with their parents?

In the “before-world,” my partner Elliot and I would entertain almost every Friday night. We’re the type of people who can have dinner and wine out within minutes, just call us when you’re coming over. Most Shabbat dinners last year started at Cincinnati Hillel, and continued with wine, cheese, and tea in our Clifton apartment. In fact, it was at one of these gatherings that we all received the news from the University: our senior year was over. Within weeks, we were celebrating Passover on Zoom. Elliot and I seder-hopped. We hosted one seder for our friends, and one that brought together both sets of in-laws and grandparents. “Unmute, Grandma!” became an additional blessing in the Haggadah.

And then, as leases were up, our friends began to move away. Some went as far away as Colorado, others back home to Chicago. And one of our closest friends, a graduate student at CCM, began teaching piano classes out of her childhood bedroom, just East of Philly. We see each other on Zoom, but nothing compares to those Friday nights in our drafty basement-one-bedroom filled with fifteen well-fed friends. While we wanted to form an in-person “pod” with some friends, they all worked in high-risk, essential jobs, which would put us at risk. 

So, casually, we began going to my parents’ house for Shabbat dinner. My father makes the best challah (come at me bro) and we all sip Bartenura, and we kibitz. It’s the one meal a week I don’t have to shop for, cook, or clean up after. After a while, sitting at the kitchen table that I studied for the SATs at, this new normal brought a sense of gratitude with it. 

Sure, we could be entertaining friends (virtually), or going out to local breweries, or swing dancing, or trying new restaurants, but there is an ambiance of calm, and frankly, a normalcy, about our new Shabbat practice. And, with 52% of young adults living with their parents after the pandemic, I’m eternally grateful to NOT be one of them. One lovely Shabbat dinner with my parents a week is plenty, thank you very much. 

We’ve used Shabbat as a chance to pause. I try, I really do try, to not work on Saturdays, but often to no avail. Friday nights are the one real opportunity to stare at different walls with a few more people, but it's become a lot more. I’ve discovered the magic of Shabbat.

So this begs the question: will we keep going to my parents for Shabbat every week after the pandemic? Simply put, I don’t know. In the post-pandemic world, we want to go back to scavenging Blue Ash Kroger’s cheese section, Jungle Jim’s wine selection, and using that new china we just inherited. But for now, I’m grateful that the kitchen table is still there every Friday night. 


Zak Lempert is the Program & Development Manager at ish, Driving Cincinnati Jewish & Israeli Art & Culture, a Development Intern at OneTable, and an MA student at HUC-JIR’s Zelikow School of Nonprofit Management.

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