#openShabbat Returns to SXSW

Once again, guests of South By Southwest (SXSW), the premier music, film and digital communications festivals in Austin, TX, can take part in a unique Shabbat community.

#openShabbat is an unplugged meal and networking event for Jewish guests of SXSW and locals on the evening of March 7 in the Austin Hilton.

Hosted by Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, Director of Social Media for lubavitch.com, a member of the ROI Community and a 2014 PresenTense fellow, and his wife Chana, #openShabbat has been the first and only continuous Shabbat experience at the festival.

“In 2010 while attending SXSW for the first time,” Lightstone says, “we hosted an ad-hoc kosher cookout. Word of the event spread virally on twitter and some 20 guests came.”

Following a request at the cookout for a meaningful un-networking experience, the Lightstones returned in 2011 to host a communal Shabbat meal for some 50 people. #openShabbat was born.

Today #openShabbat offers guests an island of serenity in the midst of a hyper-digital conference. With a focus on a sit-down meal, unplugged networking and face-to-face conversations, guests can meet one another in a democratized setting that encourages longform conversation. Discussions and activities create a powerful experiential learning environment.

“Regardless of background, knowledge or personal observance,” Lightstone says, “we offer everyone a literal seat at the table.”

#openShabbat has continued to grow by word of mouth, with attendance reaching 120 guests in 2013 and has been covered in various publications including The Verge and Tablet.

This year #openShabbat has been made possible by an Indiegogo campaign, a partnership with Jon Medved and OurCrowd, and private donations.

#openShabbat will be held at 7:30PM at the Hilton, 500 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78701. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. Additional information about #openShabbat can be found on Facebook. Mordechai Lightstone can be followed on twitter: @Mottel