Between working full-time, preparing for grad school, and volunteering at the South End’s Harriet Tubman House with ReachOut!, a Shabbat Dinner with the fellow ReachOut! participants couldn’t have come at a worse time. I know, I probably should start off this blog post by talking up Shabbat and the holiness of the day, but to be honest, it’s usually not that easy. Shabbat tends to be this daunting moment in my week, where I reluctantly put my daily life on pause, and inevitably, it never seems to come at the right time. So I admit, Shabbat Dinner with ReachOut! started out just like that for me– another thing on my to-do list, another event to plan and worry about.

The Shabbat dinner I attended was at the house of one of our site-captains, with a little less than twenty fellow volunteers bearing food and wine and potential awkward conversations. The evening started off with the usual halting introductions and name-tags, a must at any Jewish function. But as the night went on, and the formalities of the prayers and introductions were over, the buzz of conversations reached various corners of the room. As I looked around the room I realized the atmosphere was lightening up, and the familiar Shabbat feel was settling into people.

We began to discuss the reasons we got involved with ReachOut! in the first place, and it became clear to me that I was surrounded by many familiar voices and conversations. Volunteers spoke about how important it was to feel as if they were part of a community, and what it meant to them to get involved and volunteer. Not only did the words that were shared resonate strongly, but the whole conversation seemed to bring a certain feeling of togetherness to the room—a togetherness that might not have been expected from an event requiring nametags.

Knowing that I was in a room with people that were eager to get involved in the community, and moreover, valued the steps ReachOut! had taken in getting them all together to do just that, was powerful. The dinner shifted from just a potluck gathering between volunteers, or another item on my weekly to-do list, to the beginning of a community.

It’s true that Shabbat can start off as a task, yet when we let ourselves pause, it is a real moment of reflection. I’m happy I had an opportunity to reflect with people that came together in order to share the values that Reach Out! has been promoting, and I look forward to seeing this community continue to evolve.  

Dror Weiss is a member of the ReachOut steering committee, and has been volunteering with ReachOut at the Harriet Tubman House. He currently works as a researcher in a Cancer Genetics Lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.  

To learn more about the ReachOut program– or, if you are a current partcipant to RSVP for our next Shabbat– follow this link!