Pop-ups are popping up across Washington — pop-up homes, a pop-up movie theater, pop-up eateries. So why not pop-up Shabbat?
On Friday night, 60 people came to the Wonder Bread Factory in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington for a dinner and service called City Jews: Pop-Up Shabbat. Sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations, it is an attempt to involve interfaith and unaffiliated Jewish couples and families, most of whom live in neighborhoods east of 16th Street.
“The point is to offer services to people who would like to do something Jewish but are not walking into a Jewish institution,” said Marion Usher, who started pop-up Shabbat and is the creator of Love and Religion: An Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners.
She said her inspiration for starting the program came when she realized how many young couples were nixing the suburbs for city neighborhoods like Petworth, Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill.
Usher marvels at the diversity of the participants.
“We get three-generation families, regular families, every mix. We get couples, gay couples, gay families. You name it they come,” said Usher.
The families get a “full Jewish experience” at the dinner and service, according to Usher. That includes the blessing for bread, challah, wine for adults and grape juice for children. At the last pop-up Shabbat, Rabbi Sarah Tasman, director at Interfaith Family DC, taught parents the blessing for children.
Sam and Lauren Greenberg of Hyattsville and their children, ages 4 and 2, have attended all three pop-up Shabbats.
“It’s a Jewish event where not everyone is expected to know the rules,” said Sam, who is Jewish.
Lauren, who has a Roman Catholic background, said the atmosphere is welcoming, “not just tolerant.
Right now, we’re looking at some of these low commitment-options. We’re not ready to commit to a synagogue.”
The program meets in a former factory that was transformed into a modern event and work space. The Greenbergs said the facility — like the program — is kid-friendly.
There are closed-down hallways for kids to run down.” Sam said. “You have toddlers sprinting down the hallway to burn off energy before dinner.”
Sarah Rabin Spira, PJ Library outreach associate, leads the children in a creative project. They have included making a challah cover and making Shabbat candles.
“At the end of the evening they will have met other families. They will make connections. They will have had a total Shabbat experience,” Usher said. And they will take home something.”
Usher co-sponsors the program, along with Jewish Food Experience, PJ Library, Interfaith Family DC, the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center, Temple Sinai, Adas Israel and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.
For information, go to JewishInterfaithCouples.com.
Managing Editor David Holzel contributed to this article.