Sunday, January 22, 2012
Benzion Klatzko is the founder of Shabbat.com.
“Why not show the world that we are a welcoming people? “I want to highlight the openness that we have,” he states.
Although the guests can range in religious observance from completely non-observent to “very orthodox,” there is a careful screening process which takes place before anyone is allowed to join the website.
Klatzko and a group of volunteers searches the for the prospective member on Facebook and Google before allowing anyone to join, and if everything checks out, that person can become a member, either as a host or as a guest, or even as both.
The majority of members come from Brooklyn, a city with a large concentration of Jews among its residents. Flatbush, Midwood, Kensington and other Brooklyn neighborhoods are the most popular destinations for sharing Sabbath meals.
“It’s made life a lot more interesting,” said Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein, who, with his wife Feige, have served dozens of strangers during the past year in his home in Kensington.
“Our kids started moving out; the house was getting emptier and emptier. Shabbos is supposed to be fun. We started looking around for people,” said Goldstein, who has shared his Sabbath table with visitors from as far away as France.
Some hosts prefer to only have fellow Jews for guests, but there are people from other religions also on the site.
Klatzko said that there are even Catholic priests and other non-Jews who are religion-friendly on the site.
“Our site is open to every denomination: religious, not religious, single, not single,” Klatzko said.
Recently married Mordy and Zina Genut owe their marriage to Shabbat.com. Both were recently divorced, and each one had two small children. One Sabbath they were both just looking for a meal and not necessarily a new spouse. But they met at the Sabbath meal that they both found through Sabbath.com, and were engaged two months later. They now live in Marine Park.
This is a great social scene,” said Mordy Genut, 28. “People give you food. A complete stranger. You don’t see that in the world. Most people say, ‘Get out of my house. Or I will shoot you.’ ”