Kibbutz-Style Shabbat

Jen is the latest in the amazing series of “strangers I’m meeting through 25×52,” and I’m delighted to share her post about her family’s Shabbat traditions in Israel. There is more undefined Hebrew than usual, but I think you can get a lot of it through context (or google). This puts us one week out of order, so I’ll be doubling back to post about last week’s Shabbat, all in good time. Oh, and a spoiler alert: pictures of cute kids below!

When we lived in the States, Shabbat was something other Jewish people observed. The folks who wore kippot all the time and went to grown up services on Saturday morning, not the abbreviated Tot Shabbat downstairs.

Shabbat was for rabbis or Jewish educators or more Jewishy Jews than us. People who kept kosher in the house and knew the entire Birkat HaMazon by heart. Other Jews.

Before we made Aliyah, my husband and I were Jews with one foot in and one foot out, despite coming from reasonably observant Jewish upbringings. (He went to Schechter. I was in USY. That kind of observant.) When we lived in New Jersey, our three kids went to a synagogue preschool, and once every
few months we went to a Family Potluck Shabbat dinner. But until we moved to Israel, we hardly ever said the word Shabbat let alone kept it. Since we moved to a pluralistic, Masorti kibbutz in the Lower Galilee, however, Shabbat has become synonymous with “the weekend” and Kabbalat Shabbat has
become a ritual for my family.

For us, Kabbalat Shabbat means handsome clothes and dresses. It means combed hair and a touch of mommy’s lipstick on my 4 four year old’s lips. It means walking up the hill to meet our friends in the Beit Knesset so together we may open up Shabbat singing harmonies to Yedid Nefesh and Lecha Dodi.
It means the smells of meatballs simmering and chocolate cake baking in our house, or it means the surprise of an unfamiliar fragrance at someone else’s.

We typically alternate Friday night dinners: One Friday at my husband’s parents’ house in a nearby moshav; and the other on Hannaton, with a family or two from the kibbutz.

What’s great about this from a social perspective is that we actually get to have dinner and wine with our friends on a regular basis, without the need for a babysitter. What’s great about this practice from a cultural perspective is that my children get to experience different types of ritual inside the ritual we have created for ourselves. One friend’s abba might open the meal with Shalom Aleichem, while another will begin with a blessing for his children. One family always starts the meal with chicken soup, while the other is vegetarian. Living on a pluralistic kibbutz also means varying levels of keeping Shabbat. We cook on Shabbat, for instance, but some of our friends don’t. And to be sensitive to our guests, we’ve tried out a lot of crock pot recipes.

We’ve still yet to master cholent (I can’t get the beef to the right texture), but we’ve taken a favorite family recipe and transformed it into a successful crock pot meal for kids and adults alike.

Jen’s Modified Bubbi’s Meatballs:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cups bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
2 carrots, chopped finely (you replace or mix/match zucchini, spinach or squash)
1 egg, beaten
1 (28 ounce) jar tomato sauce
1 (16 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.25 ounce) can tomato puree


Sautee the onion, garlic, and carrots for five minutes. Let stand for ten minutes. In a bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, and cooled sautéed vegetable mixture. Shape the meat mixture into balls. (Makes 14 – 25 depending on how big you roll ‘em.)

In a slow cooker, mix the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree. Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. NOTE: Sometimes I brown the meatballs before I put them in the slow cooker to ensure they hold up well. But if quantity doesn’t matter, you can just put the
meatballs right in without browning.



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