Tash Mosheim

How Friday night dinner helps me connect to my Jewishness

FNDs for young people are essential to helping us connect to our roots

February 03, 2023 12:05

It might be a novel thing for young Jews to do. It might be something that's seen as 'less cool' than nightclubs or friends' houseparties. But Friday night dinners should be your favourite night of the week, and are fundamental to your Jewish identity.

In fact, I was so excited to share one of my recent FNDs with as many people as possible that I found myself entertaining 20 friends for dinner. Replete with crudité, chocolate and cocktails, this was the Jewish Gen-Z equivalent of David Copperfield’s supper party.

After hopelessly attempting to matchmake as we mingled, I declared it was time to pray. Each Jew took a prayer in turn, immensely impressing our fellow Gentiles with our knowledge of Hebrew despite it being a weekly occurrence we’ve had memorised since we could remember Zay Gezunt.

Admittedly the stage fright fazed me slightly and my fellow friends had to help out with lighting the match, but other than the gluten-free declining any challah - which the doctor informs me can be fixed using spelt – or people thinking our slickly thin wine cups were for shots, we feasted on.

20 people are a lot to cook for – so I didn’t, not really. We had nachos and dips, burgers and chips and then ice-cream sundae and fondue. The veggies, vegan and kosher were kept happy with fruit on a stick and dairy free ice cream. The teetotals were content with the outrageous amount of food soaking up the espresso martinis shaken up whilst waiting for those who worked late – the bankers, really.

Maybe if I hosted more often, I’d have curated my plans in a less embarrassing amount of time; the menu, the games and the theme (hoping to go for glamorous but being reminded that those coming from work will be far likelier to flake if they have to go home and change into heels or a tux) were meticulously revised and updated on my notes app.

And maybe I’d then have more experience to not, in my eagerness to include my nearest and dearest, get carried away one night in an Uber and hit the invite button to more people than we had chairs stowed away in the basement for. We ended up foraging for two card tables my mum has from her grandmother, kept around for Bridge despite most of her games now being played online.

The more the merrier for this one dinner makes total sense when you want to share with as many as you can why Friday is your most cherished evening. On other nights you can slot dinner in to suit your activities, – a gym class, the cinema or studying - be on your phone or eat cereal. Yet on Shabbat it’s our main chance to catch up with family, hear their news and plans for the weekend.

I’m one who enjoys an FND so much the weekly Zooms during lockdown in place of a gathering weren’t a burden, even if it meant yet more screen time.

Judaism, for so many, is about tradition, togetherness and community. This is all encapsulated for me in an FND. I can reflect on all the places I’ve been to in the world on a Friday, which family members or friends I was at, and sometimes even what dessert I ate, but this is definitely not possible for any of my Saturday or Thursdays.

When you’re lighting the candle, tossing kippahs in the air for the boys to catch on their heads or getting the dog to keep quiet during the prayers, it’s a chance for you to be grateful for the week you’ve had and the things you can look forward to.

Even if you haven’t been brought up with family Friday nights, at uni they’ve become a staple of Jewish life. Friends you wouldn’t have otherwise made are forged at the dinner table.

It seems that Jews and non enjoy the camaraderie, relish the food and anticipate it weekly. I can only but wait for the next one to come around.

February 03, 2023 12:05

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