Israeli Café Society and the Shabbat

August 5, 2016

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, August 5, 2016.

Israeli Café Society and the Shabbat

Israelis have a different sort of weekend than we do. In America, we love our weekends – Friday nights through Sunday then back to work on Monday. For those of us who are observant, Friday night and Saturday until Sunset is the Shabbat, so it is a special day. But for everyone, Saturday nights are a special night for going out, for entertainment, going to restaurants, going dancing, (or even staying home and watching TV or having dinner parties), whatever. Everybody loves Saturday night, right? But in Israel it’s different. Sunday is the first day of the workweek. The traditional Jewish view, of course, is that Shabbat is the conclusion of the week. So Sunday everything begins all over again.  For years, ever since the beginning of the State of Israel, Saturday night was the big night for going out... but it was complicated. Everyone had to go to work on Sunday, so if you stayed out too late, you suffered!

Now flash forward. Today things are different. All government offices are closed on Friday, as are many other offices. Shops and restaurants are open, of course until late in the day. But these changes have made it possible for a new kind of weekend in Israel: Thursday night until Saturday night. Because most people can sleep in on Friday, Thursday nights have become a major night to go out. And... since most people aren’t working on Friday, Friday mornings and early afternoons are prime time for going out to brunch! The cafes are packed on Fridays just like breakfast restaurants are packed in Milwaukee on Sunday mornings.

My friend Levi Weiman-Kelman, the Rabbi of Jerusalem’s Congregation Kol Haneshama has brunch EVERY Friday at 11 am in the same café, Itzik’s Café, in Jerusalem. He, his wife Paula and another couple make it their weekly ritual. And when certain friends are visiting from out of the country (like me), they become part of the ritual. For so many people, Friday mornings are for buying last minute groceries and supplies for the Sabbath, followed by a pre-Shabbat café society. Nice custom.

11 am Friday brunch at Itzik's Cafe with Susan Silverman and her husband Yosef Abramowitz, Levi and Paula Weiman-Kelman, and me.

Shabbat Shalom!