West End Synagogue (WES) seems to have a winner on its congregational hands with its popular Friday night Shabbat potluck dinners. At a recent dinner in June 30 people sent in RSVPs and 42 people showed up for the potluck. Fortunately, there was lots and lots of food, with numerous salads, appetizers, side dishes, main courses, and a whole table of fruit and desserts. Barry Allen, WES president, said the informal dinners are “a nice way to meet some people who don’t usually attend other events. For people we already know, the potlucks are a good way to socialize in a very informal setting.” Esther Lee said, “Stanley and I have thoroughly enjoyed the Shabbat potlucks. They add an extra dimension to the joy of celebrating The Sabbath!” “I enjoyed going to [Shabbat] services and then having dinner with friends,” said Arlene Lapp. “I would be in favor of having [them] twice a month in the future.” Eitan Snyder, community engagement associate for The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, says “What I love about the potlucks is that they feel very casual and communal and don’t feel too put upon. [Organizer] Sharon [Paz] makes the potlucks feel more like friends and community members getting together than like an official program.”

In an email from Argentina, Rabbi Joshua Kullock said, "I'm so glad to hear that the summer potlucks are a big hit. While I'm visiting family in Buenos Aires, I'm inspired by what I see happening twice a month back in Nashville. My appreciation to Sharon and Debby for taking the lead and organizing these dinners and to everyone for attending. We are looking forward to joining more of these wonderful moments when we return home!"

To Lorna Graff, the potluck dinners, “add to the feeling of ‘community’ that most of us enjoy. It is a special opportunity to have a lovely dinner, especially for people who are on the way home from work and don’t have time to make a full meal. We pray together and share Shabbat dinner together. What a great way to celebrate Shabbat.” Sharon Paz, WES Director of Lifelong Learning, described some of the history of the informal Shabbat dinners. “The potlucks were originally started in August 2015, [and were] geared towards families with kids. Debby Wiston [now Executive Director of the synagogue] came up with the idea to bring families together for Shabbat dinner at an affordable price. [It was] a less expensive way to have family congregational Shabbat dinners together to create a shabbat community.”

The potluck dinner concept was that families would each bring a dish that was dairy or pareve to share with other families. Since not everyone in the congregations keeps Kosher, we could not use the kitchen or bring food into the social hall. And based on popular demand, we plan to continue them once a month throughout the year,” Paz said.

Rhoda Schulman, who recently moved to Nashville from New Jersey, said, “It was very nice to be included for a Shabbat service and dinner and meet other Jews involved in their synagogue. The food was good and very plentiful. A very positive activity for WES.” Ruth Pressman commented that the dinners are, “a nice way to socialize with synagogue friends. Maybe it is bringing people together that might otherwise not come to services. [And I] enjoy the diversity of dishes. Makes it more interesting than the standard catered synagogue dinner.”

Speaking of the food, Esther Lee mentioned that, “Participants have gone above and beyond and preparing delicious and nicely presented food.” And Helen Crowley said she enjoys the dinners because, “[they] give me a chance to socialize with friends and other congregants in a casual environment. Also, I love to try everyone's recipes, with the added bonus that I only have to cook one dish.”

Ruth Levitt Tobin said, “I love the informal feel of these dinners – [it’s] like a family reunion!”


Add Comment
Subscribe to posts