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Ending the Boston Lockdown with Shabbat

A NEXT Shabbat Host Shares Her Story

The article below was submitted by Julia Moline, who hosted a NEXT Shabbat meal for her friends in Boston after the difficult week of the Boston Marathon terror attack. We thank her for sharing this story.

by Julia Moline

Julia Moline and Amanda Ritvo

Julia (right) and her Shabbat guest Amanda

On Monday afternoon, April 15th, some friends and I decided to walk from our offices at MIT to watch the Boston Marathon runners around mile 25. We stayed for about an hour, left, and then watched the news in horror. My friend Jessica had even snuck out of work early, excited that her meetings had been cancelled, and arrived at the finish line to cheer on the runners just as the bombs exploded. Luckily, she escaped the danger unharmed.

Jessica and I had been talking about having Shabbat dinner together for a while, and after the bombings, we decided that Friday night would give us some much-needed community time. Both of us had gone on Birthright Israel trips, and as it happened, a reminder email was sent out that Tuesday about the NEXT Shabbat dinner program. So I registered the meal, and we set about planning.

Because this Shabbat was going to be so special, so necessary, I decided to go all out—I even made my mom’s challah for the first time. (A side note: The challah came out, but it wasn’t as good as my mom’s—when I made a comment to that effect at dinner, my friend Ethan said, “You’re going to be saying that for the rest of your life, aren’t you?”)

I’d made the challah on Thursday, knowing I wouldn’t have the time on Friday. I was waiting for the loaves to cool, idly checking Facebook and pretending to do homework, when the first news that an officer was down on MIT’s campus came in. (Another side note: If there’s a shooting on your school’s campus, never, ever wait a few minutes before you call your parents, even if you think it might be a hoax.)

The next 24 hours were harrowing, tense, helpless, sleepless…it’s all been said. After the initial rush of “You OK?” messages, there was nothing to do but sit around and watch the news. We couldn’t go anywhere, didn’t want to go anywhere. Midday, I sent an email to my Shabbat guests saying, “Assuming the transportation bans are lifted by then, dinner is ON.” Three o’clock rolled around, then 4, then 5, without change. Some people couldn’t make it because of the transit bans, and some just didn’t feel safe leaving. Despite all of our anticipation for this Shabbat meal together, Jessica lives on the other side of the river in Boston, and in the end, it didn’t make sense for her to navigate the various travel restrictions to get to my house.

Around 7 o'clock, we heard that the authorities had cornered the suspect in Watertown. Some of my friends started to arrive—I’d invited a few neighborhood friends whose plans had been cancelled—and we all sat glued to the TV, muting it only to light Shabbat candles. The change in our collective mood was tangible. Moments earlier, we’d been a group of the terrorized, scurrying through the night to comfort each other. Now, we were a group of excited, vibrant people gathering to celebrate the fact that our city was ours again.

When we finally sat down to eat, we were all smiling. Shalom Aleichem had never felt so good to sing, and had never sounded so beautiful. We made kiddush over scotch, because no one had been able to get to the store to grab a bottle of kosher wine. Each ritual step was a reminder of our community, of our history, of our tradition that has transcended difficult times for thousands of years. As the candles burned, we ate, we laughed, and we were, for the first time in a week, happy.

I am so grateful that the NEXT reminder email came when it did, encouraging me to actually plan and host the dinner that, for me at least, made all the difference at the end of a horrible time. There is so much comfort and joy in our community and our tradition; Shabbat had renewed meaning for me this week. And even though Jessica and I were not able to have Shabbat together this week, I know that we will soon—maybe even through another NEXT Shabbat meal!

A note from NEXT: If you and your friends want to experience a NEXT Shabbat meal, we can help. Learn more, or email us at shabbat@birthrightisraelnext.org.