Marina Rostein loves dinner. Especially Shabbat dinner.
The 25-year-old Chicago native and Adams-Morgan resident was not religious growing up. But one of her favorite childhood memories is of visiting a friend’s house on Friday nights for Shabbat dinner.
The weekly meal is now her job. In January, Rostein became the Washington manager of OneTable, a New York-based nonprofit whose goal, she says “is to help millennials create unique and meaningful Friday night dinner experiences around the table.”
What was so magical about Shabbat dinners at your best friend’s house?
I remember this feeling of excitement when I would get invited to her house for Shabbat dinner. There was always beautiful food, wine, family and some of my closest friends were [also invited]. It was always the highlight of my week.
Once I got to college [George Washington University], I participated in Chabad for a couple of years and worked on Shabbat dinners with them. Once I finished school, I quickly found out about OneTable. That has really become my vehicle for Judaism, which is why I was so excited about the [Washington] opening when I found out about it in November.
Is it exclusive to Shabbat?
We focus on Friday night dinners and that means different things to different people. We come at it from this idea of Friday night, because anyone can relate to taking a step back from your work week to welcome something really meaningful and beautiful to your night.
We have a handful of hosts who are not Jewish, and we love that. A lot of the time they just have a genuine curiosity in Judaism or Shabbat dinner.
How has your love for Shabbat dinner intersected with OneTable?
I started hosting [OneTable dinners] with my fiancé [before she was hired by OneTable] and that has now become a fairly regular practice. We have friends that have now hosted dinners because of OneTable, and we have brought communities together. I have friends that are now dating that met at OneTable dinners.
It has changed the way that [my fiancé and I] see things. My friends, who had never had a Shabbat dinner, now come together and look forward to Friday afternoons because they know [we’re] hosting a dinner, or because they are getting ready to host for the first time.
I think it changed the way that our week functions. We know that on Friday night we’re going to spend time at the dinner table with our closest friends and be able to debrief about the week and welcome what the weekend will bring.
How has this job helped you embrace Judaism?
I like that OneTable brings the ability to make your Shabbat your own and that makes it really accessible. I grew up knowing that I was Jewish and I loved that and I’m the only person on earth that loved going to Sunday school.
But I didn’t grow up with this major tie to religion. So to have the food and the companionship with friends and this experience around the table has really brought something different than I have ever had.
Today is Thursday. What are your plans tomorrow night?
There are a ton of Cinco de Mayo Shabbat dinners happening [around Washington] and I am hosting one of my own.
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