By Laurel FairworthSitting around a table and sharing a meal is an easy and natural way to connect with people of backgrounds different from one’s own. That’s why the Israeli American Council (IAC) has launched Shishi Israeli, an Israeli version of traditional Shabbat dinners taking place over the next several months in Center City, the Main Line, Elkins Park and Cherry Hill, NJ. It is hoped these Shabbat celebrations will help bridge the gap between American Jews and the Israeli community. Yoni Ari, IAC Executive Director of the Philadelphia chapter, says, “Friendships and the understanding of each other’s culture can take place while breaking bread and jointly savoring the Friday night tradition.” These Shabbat evenings are open to all, especially to Israeli Americans unaffiliated with a synagogue. Ari continued, “Shishi Israeli is not religious, but rather it is a joyous cultural experience showcasing an Israeli flair with food and music.”
The Friday night events feature singing, dancing, and of course copious amounts of ethnic cuisine. A traditional dinner consists of Moroccan style fish, chicken with fruit, and meatballs with hummus. “Israelis love a big table laid out with all the courses served at the same time. That way they can eat whatever they want depending on their mood,” explained Ari. “This is the typical Jewish way to welcome the new week.” It is hoped that the program will be a magnet for many families from both the Israeli and American communities, creating meaningful and during connections.
Special emphasis will be placed on the next Shishi Israeli scheduled for February 10, 2017. In honor of Tu Bishvat, donations will be collected to plant trees to replace those burned in the recent forest fires that swept Haifa. The following dinners are March 17 in Elkins Park, March 31 at Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia and early April at a date to be determined in south New Jersey. All of the events are in partnership with local groups which means each is unique. However they will have in common the same Israeli zest for life and Middle Eastern culinary flair.