Julia Schantz met her best friend at Hillel JUC during her first Shabbat as a student at the University of Pittsburgh. She “truly believes,” she said, “that with every Friday night comes the opportunity to impact your life in countless ways.”
Now, as the new field manager of Pittsburgh’s OneTable chapter, she will be harnessing her love for Shabbat as a means to build community.
OneTable aims to foster engagement with Jewish rituals by providing tools — and money — to help young adults (“21-39ish,” according to its website) create meaningful and fun Shabbat dinners. The nonprofit, which launched nationally in 2014, currently has 17 hub cities. Pittsburgh was added to its roster in 2018.
Its increasingly popular website allows users to sign up as either a host or a guest for Shabbat dinners each weekend. When potential hosts apply, they include information regarding their Shabbat practices and explain what Shabbat means to them.
Schantz grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Pitt in 2019, then worked as a social justice fellow for Repair the World Miami, supporting local nonprofits and planning educational service programs. She started working for Pittsburgh’s OneTable chapter three weeks ago.
The program has grown during the pandemic as an increasing number of people were looking for a connection to Judaism during stay-at-home mandates.
“During COVID, OneTable added many different hosting options to their platform in order to adjust to the needs and safety of our community members,” including virtual options, outdoor options and options for people who were vaccinated, Schantz told the Chronicle.
“Due to the nature of the pandemic, many Shabbat dinners had to be private for the safety of our communities,” she continued, “but we are excited to see more open Shabbats happening now that we can safely gather in vaccinated groups or outside due to the warm weather.”
OneTable was “very thankful for Zoom’s ability to keep us connected during this time,” she added.
The OneTable website also offers users the ability to become more engaged in their local Jewish community based on their general age range, geographical area and the kind of experience they are seeking. For example, if a user is looking for Shabbat programming for their children, OneTable will recommend PJ Library, and other online resources.
“OneTable is really special because it invites people to connect with each other and to grow their own Shabbat practices,” said Schantz, who has been both a guest and a host for Shabbat dinners through OneTable. She is now excited to be on the other end of the process.
“I get to help others create that same positive Shabbat experience,” she said.
Pittsburgh’s OneTable chapter is supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Jewish Life and Learning Division and the Jewish Community Foundation. More information can be found at onetable.org. PJC
Sarah Abrams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.