Pop-Up Shabbats bring community together

by | Aug 10, 2023 | Other News

This past spring, the Young Adult Division (YAD) of the United Jewish Federation rolled out a program that’s now rolling fast on its own. Since March, the Federation has offered four Shabbat dinners for young Jewish adults that are hosted by community members. Thanks to a generous grant from the Richard S. Glasser Family Foundation, the YAD Pop-Up Shabbat program has taken off and is building its own momentum. Three more Pop-Ups are planned (two in August in Norfolk’s Ghent section and one in October in Virginia Beach’s Little Neck neighborhood). Open spots are available for each. Visit www.Jewishva.org/popupshabbat to register as a guest or to host a Pop-Up.

The Pop-Up Shabbat program is designed to engage young Jewish adults from across the region in an activity that allows them to meet and get to know one another in a casual, no agenda, low pressure way. (If they end-up rekindling a bit of their Jewish souls in the process, who will protest?) Shabbat dinners seem to be a perfect vehicle for achieving those goals. Even for those who don’t observe Shabbat regularly, it’s safe to say that when candles are lit together, when the motzi and kiddish prayers are recited together, and that first bite of challah on Friday night is taken together, a visceral connection to each other and to the Jewish People takes place.

Pop-Up Shabbats encourage YAD-age (22ish to 42ish) members of the community – singles, couples, and families – to host or attend Shabbat dinners. With no charge to attend and expense reimbursements to hosts, the program is low-barrier, low pressure, and high in returns! UJFT sees great potential for program growth and thinks it will continue to yield greater and greater returns. Guests who attend these Pop-Ups can also host a Shabbat dinner, and UJFT is ready to assist.

Here’s what some of the hosts and guests say about their Pop-Up Shabbat experience:


We had a great time hosting when the program first started and met some fantastic new people! We’re looking forward to hosting again in August, we love sharing the beauty of Shabbat with others and the opportunity to learn from one another. We also appreciate programs like this that help us feel united with the wider Tidewater community.Host, Gabriela Kocerha


This was a unique opportunity to share Shabbat dinner with people I had never met before as well as those I knew quite well. And I loved that the group was such a mix of ages, geography, where they go to synagogue. Everyone instantly was comfortable because we were celebrating Shabbat. I really enjoyed getting to know our hosts (the Mostofskys). Tehilla has the best smile… the best energy… and the best food! I must get that recipe for Lemon Ice Cream Pie! Guest, Dorianne Villani


It was so nice to share our Shabbat table with people we didn’t yet know. I feel like we all made new friends, as we broke bread together. One or two of the guys later joined Nadiv – the UJFT Young Men’s Giving Circle, so the Pop-Ups are truly getting people involved in Jewish community, even beyond the dinners. We truly enjoyed it. Host, Shikma Rubin

It has been a wonderful experience to attend these Pop-Up Shabbats. They are real connectors – bringing young people together who might not otherwise have the chance to meet. It’s fantastic that the Glasser Family made this investment, so that UJFT could organize a program that brings the community closer through casual, shared experiences. The fact that these are uniquely Jewish experiences make them even more meaningful.Guest, Solomon Siegel


As a relatively new member of this community, I know how difficult it can be to meet people and make meaningful connections. My husband, Jake, and I think these Shabbat dinners are a great opportunity to bring Jewish young professionals together in an intimate yet relaxed setting.Host Jessica Glasser

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

To be part of an upcoming Pop-Up Shabbat (as a host or a guest), go to www.Jewishva.org/popupshabbat to sign up. For questions that the website does not address, contact Amy Zelenka at the Federation at 757-965-6139 or azelenka@ujft.org.

-Amy Zelenka