This story comes to us from TableMakers, a Schusterman initiative that helps young Jews to create and host dynamic Shabbat experiences for their peers.
Leah Greengarten is a PR professional with over 10 years’ experience in the Australian and international media industry. Prior to a career in PR, Leah was a print journalist writing for publications, such as The New York Times and Sunday Times Travel magazine. She is also the founder and event organizer of the Tamarama Beach Shabbat dinner, an annual event held in Sydney on Tamarama Beach during the summer. The event unites like-minded individuals who are looking for a more spiritual Shabbat experience. Surrounded by nature in the company of family and friends is where Leah finds peace on a Friday night.
A lot of people ask me how I came up with the Tamarama Beach Shabbat Dinner. Originally it was inspired by a Friday night service I stumbled across on the Namal in Tel Aviv. There was about 50 people engaged in a service, welcoming in the Sabbath in the most beautiful way. The image stuck with me.
When I came up with the idea of the Tamarama Beach Shabbat Dinner, it was a real light bulb moment. Like those ideas you come up with in the shower. The idea was so clear, I could literally visualize the whole event. We have many beaches in Sydney, so I could have picked any beach, but for some reason Tamarama Beach really spoke to me. It also happens to have no wind at night, which is amazing. It's not zoned as a commercial beach (like Bondi Beach) so having an event on the beach is very uncommon, making our event very unique.
Once people understood the "how" of my idea, they followed up with "why." It’s a lot of hard work, so it’s a valid question. I come from a very community-orientated family. My paternal grandfather was active in building our local Shul’s congregation and community. I guess it runs through my veins.
At the sunset over Tamarama Beach in Sydney, 200 plus guests gathered on the sand to welcome in the Shabbat Queen. As the synagogue service started, people from all walks of life joined the service led by a local Chazen with the voice of an angel.
While some people prayed, a handful of diners created beautiful floral garlands inspired by my recent experience at Rekindle. The atmosphere was casual, relaxed and spiritually uplifting. Engulfed by the smell of the ocean and surrounded with views out to sea it was hard not to be swept up in the atmosphere.
Rabbi Slavin from community organization Our Big Kitchen was the resident Rabbi. He welcomed all the guests and pointed out that the fairy lights above our heads formed a Megan David, large enough to be seen from the sky. Diners then took their seats on the sand. Over the course of the night a delicious 3-course meal, inspired by Ottolenghi was served. The local chef was Kevin Perry, a contestant from Master Chef Australia.
I hope this unique event will become a world known event—in which the team takes full pride. To top it off, we were able to keep the cost of tickets to as low as $10 as not to exclude anyone from the community.
I’m not particularly religious, but I am spiritual. Nothing that was on offer in the Sydney Jewish community was speaking to me. I find I am most connected to G-d when I am surrounded by nature. So the idea of creating something within nature really appealed to me.
My dream is to create more events like this that combine Judaism and nature. The feedback has been amazing, so I think there is an audience for these kinds of things, I just need to find more time in the day!
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or program participants.