When Lianne Sufrin heard that the newly launched Pittsburgh hub of OneTable was looking for a hub manager, she thought “this is probably a great time to come back.”
The 2008 Shady Side Academy grad, who grew up in Highland Park and Squirrel Hill, had been working in New York City as an art therapy extern at the Actors Fund, when she realized that shifting gears to facilitate Jewish millennial connections would bring together “all my love for community building and creativity.”
“I always knew I wanted to go into the helping professions,” said Sufrin, who attended Tree of Life Congregation and Rodef Shalom Congregation in her youth and was active in NFTY and BBYO.
OneTable had its national launch in 2014, with support from the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life and The Paul E. Singer Foundation. Over the last three years, the organization has grown to include eight hub cities that support additional locations, according to Al Rosenberg, OneTable’s director of communications.
In addition to Pittsburgh, other hubs include Chicago, Atlanta, Colorado, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco.
OneTable aims to foster engagement with Jewish rituals by providing tools — and money — to help young adults create meaningful and fun Shabbat dinners. In 2017, OneTable provided support for 100,000 “seats at the table,” Rosenberg said.
“OneTable is an incredible way to engage Jewish young adults because it empowers them to engage with Jewish rituals and traditions in ways that feel authentic to them,” Rosenberg added. “OneTable is non-prescriptive and recognizes that each guest and host brings something unique to the table. We offer the tools — Shabbat coaches, event organizing platform, ‘nourishment credits,’ resources and more — to help them build their own communities and practices.”
A “nourishment credit” is funding in the amount of $15 per guest — up to $150 — to help pay for the meal.
“We encourage young adults to create intention and connection with others on Friday nights by creating community around the Shabbat table the way they choose,” Sufrin said.
OneTable is geared primarily to young adults in their 20s and 30s, she added.
Here’s how it works: Anyone interested in hosting a Shabbat dinner applies on OneTable.org and then speaks to Sufrin or a Shabbat coach to discuss plans.
A dinner can have a theme, can be private for a specific group of people, or can be open to anyone who wants to come provided they RSVP. It can be kosher, not kosher or vegetarian. The hosts have broad creative control over crafting each unique experience.
Locally, OneTable is financially supported by grants from the Jewish Community Foundation and the Jewish Life and Learning Department of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Although Pittsburgh just recently has been made a hub city, some OneTable dinners have already happened here, such as last summer’s Shabbat barbecue hosted by Ronna Peacock Pratt.
“It was a really great program,” Pratt, 28, said. “I had 18 people and it was so easy. OneTable gives you a whole platform on the website. It’s like Pinterest meets Facebook. You can put in your guests, the menu, the date and time, send emails. It keeps everything organized.”
While Pratt did not grow up observing Shabbat, she enjoyed hosting the OneTable dinner, she said.
“It was great sharing a Friday night with people who shared a joint understanding that Friday night is kind of special,” she said.
Sufrin, who just moved back to Pittsburgh last month, hosted her first OneTable dinner in New York, a going-away party for herself before she left the Big Apple.
“It was truly amazing,” she said. “I had a potluck dinner, and it was really fun. It confirmed the reason why I’m doing this, to bring people together.”
She is getting geared up to plan some interesting nosh:pitality events, including sports-themed get-togethers for hosts, and to get the OneTable ball rolling in her hometown.
“I’m excited about this,” she said. “I think it’s going to be wonderful for Pittsburgh.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at