Welcome to Our House! Hosting Mitzvah Weekend Meals at Your Home

dinner party home

Many families opt to host Shabbat dinner at their synagogue before services, or at a nearby restaurant, and Sunday morning brunch at the hotel where most out-of-town guests are staying. But some Atlanta families welcomed guests into their homes for Mitzvah weekend meals. We spoke to three about how – and why- they did it and what you can learn from their experiences.

The Rubenstein Family

Kim Rubenstein’s first child had the traditional Shabbat dinner at a restaurant en route to their synagogue. But her second child was all about staying home. “He wanted a true Shabbat dinner with the whole family together in his house,” she said. “He’s all about family so we wanted to do it the way he wanted.”

Kim’s in-laws handled the organization of the meal, cooking traditional Shabbat foods the Bar Mitzvah boy loved most and even bringing the paper goods. She found it to be a less stressful option than a restaurant meal, because it unfolded at a leisurely pace, without anyone having to get an order in at a specific time. They invited guests early enough to allow for a relaxed eating and schmoozing atmosphere and moved along to the synagogue ahead of services. There was no need for dessert; the oneg post-services offered the sweets.

Would you do it again?

Yes! Kim said, “It was lovely to have such a casual experience where everyone felt at home, in our home!”

Advice to others:

Have help! You want to be a guest and enjoy all the relatives who have come in for your special weekend, and you won’t want to worry about prep or clean up afterward.

The Leaf Family

A good portion of the Leaf family’s out-of-town guests hadn’t been to their home, so mom Wendy Leaf wanted to be sure that relatives from NYC, Maryland, and beyond didn’t come to Atlanta without walking in their front door.

The Brickery (now closed) catered a casual Shabbat dinner with a Georgia Bulldogs décor theme. Wendy said that the family planned to not attend services that evening so that they could spend the time with family and friends, and since the next day’s Bar Mitzvah service was at Havdallah, there was plenty of time to clean up and not be rushed in the morning.

Another reason Wendy chose to host the meal at home was because her son was sharing both the bimah and the celebration with a close friend from their temple. “This was the only thing that was all about my kid for the weekend, so it was nice to have a separate meal that really focused on our family in our home,” Wendy noted.

She liked that a home-based meal offers a different vibe, as family members get up, move around and change their seating so they interact with many more people than they would sitting at a restaurant table. “It was warm,” Wendy said. “Relatives could explore the house, relax and gather in different groupings throughout the evening.”

Would you do it again?

I would do it again, and I probably will for the next kid!

Advice to others:

Even if you cook yourself, you’ve got to have set up and clean up help. There’s a difference between the person getting it all done and the person hosting, and you’ve got to enjoy it as the host.

The Mulqueen Family

Sharyn Mulqueen liked the idea of hosting Mitzvah weekend guests in her home so much, she did it for both Shabbat dinner and Sunday brunch!

“Many of my in-laws had never visited us in Atlanta, so we wanted to entertain in our home,” Sharyn said. “We wanted them to see how we live and share what we love about our home.”

The Mulqueens prepared Shabbat dinner themselves, with proteins cooked in a large smoker and plenty of homemade side dishes. The Bat Mitzvah girl loved the set up because she got more time with her cousins without other distractions, and it took the edge off the sometimes stressful milestone weekend. The relaxed ambience found guests staying very late – some till 1 a.m. – as they chatted and enjoyed the outdoor patio and spent time around the fire pit. A cousin took plenty of spontaneous pictures, which Sharyn is glad she now has, including large group family shots.

Sunday brunch was held at their home for similar reasons, but also because their house was conveniently situated for guests headed to the airport that afternoon. Friends of the family hosted the event, hiring a caterer to set up a waffle bar, omelet station and Bloody Mary bar.

“It was a holiday weekend,” Sharyn noted, “So when brunch was over, whoever wasn’t leaving right away stayed the rest of the day with us at home. It was great to have them all together, just hanging at our house.”

Would you do it again?

Absolutely. It was a bit crazy, but worth it in the long run, and everyone still talks about how much fun they had.

Advice to others:

Once the party starts, you shouldn’t be doing anything. Hire someone to clean up, help refill pitchers, serving platters, etc. Also, rent as much as you can, like tables and chairs, if your budget allows. That was a smart call because they set it all up and then take it down for you – easy!

Considering hosting a meal at home? Get help from these Mitzvah pro caterers!



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