Written by: Jen Bokoff, Honeymoon Israel Chicago, December 2019

Michael and Rachel Plump met six years ago at a music festival. Rachel grew up Jewish, went to Jewish summer camp, and celebrated Shabbat periodically with her family. Michael is not Jewish and grew up not knowing a thing about Shabbat. Now, he hosts a weekly virtual Shabbat gathering for their HMI cohort.

Michael and Rachel live in Brooklyn, NY and decided to do HMI as a way to meet couple friends. On their trip to Israel, they really enjoyed connecting with the other couples. More unexpectedly, they also enjoyed talking about traditions like Shabbat. Rachel shared, “My mom has been really sick, so going on the trip was a little stressful, but it also brought up a lot of memories. One of the things we talked about is how, especially with not wanting to have kids, we keep these traditions that were important to my mom alive in our family that isn’t really religious.” 

When coronavirus began Lauren, a member of Michael and Rachel’s cohort who was in Indonesia for work at the time, hosted a virtual Shabbat. Rachel needed to convince Michael to join. They did and had a great time. He decided to take over hosting duties, and has brought the group together every week since. Most of the time is spent just catching up, with each couple giving an update of what’s happened over the course of the week. Occasionally, they include candle lighting and other rituals, but especially during this time when people are craving connection and pause, that is the primary focus. Nearly everyone from the cohort has been to at least one Shabbat, and it has sparked Slack conversation about creating other virtual gatherings as well.

For Rachel and Michael, this community brings them joy. “The people are wonderful, interesting, and driven,” Michael shared. “It’s nice to see them, especially when we’re not getting to see anyone right now.” 

When asked about a favorite HMI moment, Rachel responded, “Breakfasts in Israel! Even though I’m not much of a morning person, it was nice to chat with people and eat amazing meals together.” It was those chats in Israel—over meals and beyond—that built connection that continues to deepen even from a distance.