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JWRP Sister Spotlight: Karina Chemea
After connecting with women from all over the world during her MOMentum experience, Karina Chemea, a JWRP sister from Buenos Aires, Argentina, decided that she wanted to welcome more guests to her home on Shabbat. In this interview, Karina describes how her family has made hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) a big part of their lives, as well as her tips for making guests feel comfortable.
What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
I was on vacation with my family when I received an email from Menora, a Jewish communal organization in Buenos Aires, inviting me to travel to Israel with the JWRP. My eldest daughter, who had just spent the year in Israel, had met Lori Palatnik, and told me that she was wonderful and that I needed to experience Israel with her. “But I don’t know her or anyone else who’s going,” I said. My daughter still urged me to apply for MOMentum. So, I listened to her and went. And I’m so glad that I did!
How did MOMentum impact you?
MOMentum was an emotional and spiritual journey, and it truly changed me. I met hundreds of Jewish women from all over the world, and I was amazed to learn that we each shared so much in common. Even though we came from different countries, we all felt the same powerful emotions while lighting Shabbat candles and dancing at the Kotel. The connection I felt with my JWRP sisters led me to open up my home and share Shabbat with Jews from all over the world.
How did you embrace hachnasat orchim after MOMentum?
In the past, my family often ate Shabbat dinner with my parents or siblings. Today, we host Jewish individuals for Shabbat meals once or twice a month. Menora, the Partner Organization that hosted my MOMentum experience, sends international travelers and new community members our way. We’ve hosted people from Turkey, South Africa, Russia, Mexico, and many other countries, and sometimes, past guests even refer their friends to us!
What are a few tips for welcoming people into your home on Shabbat?
People may feel nervous when visiting a stranger’s home for the first time. So, as soon as your guests enter your home, try to make them feel welcome. My five daughters meet our guests at the door and ask them about themselves. They speak about our guests’ travels, studies, or work. Before the meal, I ask our guests what they like to eat and if they have any food allergies. If they’re travelers, I offer them assistance and invite them to spend future Shabbatot with us. This helps our guests feel at ease. Also, give your guests opportunities to share. During Shabbat dinner, we go around the table and each recount the best thing that we experienced that week. Our guests often become emotional while they reflect. During the week, we don’t always have time to engage in real conversations, but at the Shabbat table, everyone listens intently to one another. Finally, serve delicious food! Enjoying incredible, home-cooked meals is one of the highlights of Shabbat. Each week, I bake four challot, and sometimes add cinnamon or zaatar to them. They’re a big hit, and I’m always happy to give my guests the recipes.