On May 29, 70 people—families, couples, young children and babies—all gathered together to celebrate Shabbat. Who are these people and why is this unique? These are “city Jews” who have made a commitment to live in the city, even in parts of the city where none of us veteran Washingtonians would have dared to go five years ago. Did I say five years—how about two years ago? They are committed to city life and urban living including public school education for their children. Many work in the social justice world and want to actively participate in making the world a better place.

At 6 pm, the first people begin to arrive. A few kinks had to be resolved, such as getting the people into the locked building! The crowd assembled, and the excitement in the room was electric with children running up and down the halls, parents chatting with each other, and introductions being made. This is exactly the buzz we were hoping for. Some people knew each other; some recognized their neighbors; some didn’t know anyone; and others came out of pure curiosity. But they were all there to have Shabbat dinner with a community of likeminded people.

After an initial welcoming, Rabbi Hannah Goldstein, from Temple Sinai, led us in the Shabbat prayers and offered a d’var Torah on the importance of building community. As people were eating dinner, the children heard a story by Bini Silver of the DCJCC and then created an art project with Sarah Rabin Spira of PJ Library®.

One of the unique aspects of this experience is that seven community groups came together to create this dinner: Adas Israel, a Conservative congregation, and Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation, the Jewish Food Experience, PJ Library, the DCJCC, Love and Religion, and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

CityJews PopUp Shabbat is a perfect experience for Jewish and interfaith families to get together to celebrate Shabbat and help form a Jewish community that is uniquely their own. We have another CityJews PopUp Shabbat planned for June 26 (Register here!) and hope to do a “Bagels, Brunch and Blessings” as well as a havdalah service in the fall. This population all want something Jewish, but are not yet ready for institutional attachment. It is my hope that through these “pop-up” Jewish experiences we will be supporting a large number of young urban families in their search for Jewish experiences and identity. (I have even received a call from someone requesting that we do a CityJews PopUp Shabbat on Capitol Hill!)