Created by Rabbi Mordechai and Chana Lightstone, #openShabbat is an unplugged meal and networking event for the Jewish guests of SXSW conference. Local Jewish residents are welcome as well. (For the uninitiated, “unplugged” means that technological communication devices are not invited.) The first Shabbat event was held in 2011 and it has continued to grow by word of mouth, with attendance reaching 120 guests last year.
“Regardless of background, knowledge or personal observance,” Lightstone says, “we offer everyone a literal seat at the table.”
The rabbi—a member of the ROI Community, which connects Jewish leaders around the world—explains that #openShabbat represents an island of serenity in the midst of the hyper-digital conference, which began in 1987. A sit-down meal without technology encourages face-to-face conversations and long-form conversation. “While the connective power of the Internet is unprecedented, we also have to take a step back and find balance by creating a space where we can connect without our devices,” he says.
This year, #openShabbat has been made possible by an Indiegogo campaign, a partnership with Jon Medved and OurCrowd, and private donations.