Wow, 5 posts in one day! I guess when it rains, it pours. It was actually snowing this morning. It helps to have an "extra" hour in the day today, don't forget to change all your clocks...
So I guess I will go public with this idea - inspired by a frequent Shabbat guest who actually found us on shabbat.com and was bold enough to state that she needs an alcohol-free environment. I was advised that many people would not so easily want to go public with the information that they are in recovery. B"H H-shem directed her to us who get it and are totally fine with that (Thank you, Rabbi Klatzko and company!!). It can present a challenge for having an
infrastructure of Shabbat when one can't be comfortable in many home and
shul environments due to the presence of alcohol.
Being a BT myself, I know what it's like to not always have a place to eat on Shabbat. Personally I think that especially in cities with large frum communities there should be no excuse for that - and I'm sure a similar sentiment helped to drive the idea of shabbat.com in the first place - such an amazing thing and long overdue. B"H now I am married with kids and we are zoche to make Shabbat ourselves. When I was single in New York, sometimes I didn't get invited and made some sort of Shabbat myself and sometimes even invited others to join me at my basement kitchen card table and folding chairs. There were also several amazing families with whom I was privileged to eat and spend Shabbat meals and soak up the amazing environment at their homes during that time. I am forever indebted to them and to the wonderful shul that I was a part of there as well. I could not imagine Shabbat without either of those factors. But for a person who cannot be around alcohol it could be quite challenging to have a fulfilling Shabbat around other Jews!
There is an amazing organization in our community called Chabad Lifeline which I was privileged to have the opportunity to go to this past week and meet with a director as well as attend an open meeting. It serves all people but is run by Chabad such that it's not a Jewish organization per se. They do run a sober seder as well as Purim, I believe, which is incredible. I hope one day a full-time shul will be available for this population, not specifically, necessarily, like anyone could come but the people who need to be in that environment know that it's available to them. When I lived in Brooklyn there was a Carlebach organization that ran shabbatonim where there was no alcohol - I'm not sure I even knew that about it at first - I just reserved to eat there sometimes because it was a communal Shabbat meal, maybe someone told me or I figured it out later on that there was no wine there and only grape juice. But it didn't really matter to me.
Soooo - what I want to do is get a core group of people who understands the issues at least on some levels and are willing to host Shabbat meals with no alcohol for people who may be looking for that and have a hard time asking people or admitting/explaining to a stranger what they need. No Jew should be denied a meaningful Shabbat, if you ask me. I have since contacted shabbat.com to see if they would be open to having a field on the host profiles where they could indicate whether they could provide sober meals. I realize they are probably busy with the hurricane victims at the moment but hopefully they will respond positively soon. In the meantime I would like to spread awareness of this issue and get potential hosts on board. I am in touch with Chabad Lifeline about this project and will go to them for advice on how to proceed about it in terms of explaining the issues to people and any other issues that come up. I want to have a running list of people willing to host and their particulars of when they are available to do it as well as potential guests looking for such hosts. That's why I think shabbat.com would be a good forum for it since they already have a database set up. If anyone has an "in" there and reads this I hope you will put in a good word for this idea.
And if anyone has any ideas about how to best implement this or if such a thing already exists in your community that works, please share it with me!!
Thank you everyone.