Visiting a non-observant Jewish friend at home can be no different to going to anyone else’s place. You can come in with your shoes on, have your pets roaming around the house, and drink alcoholic beverages until everyone can neither see nor think straight. The dress code isn’t so relevant as well; unless they have a formal party happening, then it’s OK to be in casual clothes and hang out there for hours on end.
With an observant Jew, meanwhile, you need to become extra mindful of your actions. The last thing you want is to 1) make a fool out of yourself and 2) disrespect them in a way you never intend to at all. So, to prevent any disaster, remember the following before going to a Jewish home:
Wear Non-Revealing Clothes
The first etiquette to keep in mind is that you need to don garments that don’t show too much skin. It’s misleading to tell you to wear “decent” clothes because sleeveless tops and shorts can go under that category. To stay on the safe side, therefore, have pants and long sleeves ready.
Take Gifts With You
Coming a Jew’s place with a gift is great. You may bring items they can use around the house, such as dinnerware, vases, or even soaps. What you shouldn’t carry, however, is alcohol, particularly if you’re unsure whether they drink or not. Most don’t – be aware of that.
Never Take Homemade Dishes
This advice is highly essential for non-Jewish folks who may not have a kosher kitchen. Though your hosts won’t tell you to go away, they’ll probably not be able to eat the food or serve it with the ones they cooked.
Avoid Bringing Gadgets OR Flowers
Mobile devices are no-no’s since they stop you from having a real conversation with the people around you. Flowers, especially the fresh ones, look and smell lovely, yet the fact that they’re cut plants means they are products of a Sabbath work violation.
Don’t Dig In Immediately
Food is very sacred, but so is the blessings that come with it. The people living in that residence may think you’re disrespectful by sitting down stat in the dining area. No, you should pray with them first, and then dig in when they do.
Stay Silent After Washing Hands
The act of handwashing is an absolute must when you go to a Jewish house. The best thing to do is to keep your silence until everyone else starts talking.
“Beginning with God’s mandate, in Exodus, that Aaron and his sons wash their hands (and their feet) before they enter the Tabernacle, “lest they die,” Jews have been washing their hands,” Miriam Z. Wahrman, Ph.D. explains.
Be Open To Wearing A Kippah
Kippah is a round head covering that some Jews want to wear during meals because, as mentioned earlier, there are prayers in between eating too. The host may ask their guests to put on one – even the women and people of other religions – so try to become open-minded about it.
Richard Rabkin, MD, shares what a Kippah means to him, “It is a statement to myself and to others of my commitment t o Judaism and the Jewish people.”
Sing-Along With Everyone
A Jewish gathering will never be complete without a lot of songs. They may invite you to sing along, and it’s alright to hum if you just heard the tunes for the first time. What matters is that you’re at the moment and they feel you’re with them. “Singing is always present in Judaism, in the synagogue of course, but also at home,” Hervé Roten, Ph.D. explains.