By Jennifer Starrett

Most of us are probably guilty of looking at our phones a few times too often or spending too much time plugged into technology instead of admiring the beauty of our surroundings. As someone who spends her days and nights with social media and marketing, it can almost seem odd to be disconnected from that online world and community. However, I know that it is equally as important to be living in the present moment and capturing memories instead of pictures, especially when it comes to spending time with my family and friends.

Growing up, I fondly remember Shabbat dinners at my grandparents home most Friday nights. This time spent together was special and I remember our talks, enjoying the delicious dinners my grandma made and lighting the Shabbat candles together. Of course this was a time without cell phones and social media and it was easier to find reasons and ways to connect to each other instead of technology. Even though our environments have changed quite a bit, I make it a priority to do even the simplest of things together with my family each Friday night. Each time I am able to light the Shabbat candles, take a sip from the kiddish cup and hear my son say the hamotzi for the challah, I feel my grandparents’ presence and know they are proudly looking down on my family.

I’ll admit, it seems daunting to me to unplug once a week during Shabbat, but I also think about how refreshing it could be. Without having the urge to check the phone each time a notification sounds or an email comes through will give me an opportunity to enjoy every second with my family and hear every silly thing my son says. It will give my family the opportunity to make precious memories together and enjoy every second of our undivided attention.

This coming Shabbat (Nov. 11 – 12) seems like the perfect opportunity to try and disconnect for 24 hours and instead join in the world-wide Shabbat Project (shabbatprojectaz.com) where people from around the world will come together to celebrate. I will be offline and connected to my family instead of my phone. For me, this will be hopefully the start of a new tradition and way of resting each Shabbat. I encourage you to think about a way that you can connect to your Judaism. Whether it is something like lighting Shabbat candles or enjoying a meal with family or friends, do something this Shabbat that will make you feel connected. Imagine how powerful it can be with over 1000 communities participating this weekend in “keeping it together!”

And if you want to get started on the right foot, join me and our local community of women on Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Great Arizona Challah Bake where we will share in the honored tradition of baking challah together. Women from across the Valley and across all levels of observance will come together to learn how to make challah and learn why it can be a spiritual experience when you bake it each week. Dedicated challah coaches will be there to help guide you step-by-step in the process and everyone will get to take their challah along with a recipe card home with them at the end of the night.

My grandparents may not be with us any more, but I know that this Shabbat they will be with me and my family in spirit as I continue their Shabbat traditions and make some new ones.