Bringing Comfort // Three women, three homegrown efforts to ease their sisters’ pain

Shabbos for a crowd:
How Yehudis Sherman is transforming the Shabbos experience for divorcees and widows
Yehudis Sherman of Boro Park, a working mother of a large family with several married children as well as teenagers, spent many years involved in kiruv. A genuine people person, she always enjoyed hosting large numbers of guests. But it was only when she became a single mother that she realized just how lonely and isolating Shabbos can be for a single woman.

Yehudis began inviting single mothers for Shabbos—members of the organization Sister to Sister, a support group for divorced women, or women she knew from her neighborhood. “We would enjoy a beautiful meal together, just a small group of women, singing and sharing divrei Torah, and of course, delicious food.”

She was shocked to learn that many of these women, some of whom are respected professionals, including mechanchos, therapists and social workers, often lit Shabbos candles and went to sleep on Friday night without a seudah. Even when they were invited to an “intact” family, they preferred to stay home, feeling they did not belong.

“But it’s just too depressing to eat alone,” one woman explained. “When Shabbos comes, all I want to do is sleep the pain away.”

“Shabbos is such a special gift, with so much potential to enhance our lives and bring us closer to Hashem,” says Yehudis. “I felt that Hashem put me in this situation so that I could understand what it means to be alone and help others.”

Soon word spread about Yehudis’ Shabbos meals, and she was inundated with requests. What had started out as a small get-together with friends quickly grew to a gathering of up to 35 women every Shabbos. This meant that adjustments had to be made since Yehudis simply didn’t have the means to shop, cook, clean and serve a weekly meal for so many people without assistance.

“I reached out to friends and neighbors, and the response was amazing,” Yehudis tells me. “I found a generous sponsor who pays for my fish order. He tells me not to buy rolls of gefilte fish, which are much cheaper, but to splurge on salmon. Another baal chesed pays for the meat order and encourages me to buy expensive cuts of meat, on his cheshbon. A local deli gives me 16 containers of dips.

“There’s a whole block of baalos chesed in Boro Park, wonderful women who want to be part of this mitzvah. Each week I give them a shopping list with whatever I need—fruit, vegetables, baked goods, water, seltzer, chocolate, ice cream—and they each buy a few items on the list.”

Provisions aside, the preparations for a lavish Shabbos meal can be daunting. But Yehudis, who is also juggling a job and her family, has it down to a science. She shops on Tuesday, cooks and bakes on Thursday, and puts the finishing touches on everything on Fridays. “I set the table on Sunday or Monday,” she explains, “with the help of a few sweet young girls who live in the neighborhood. The décor is different every week, with a theme, matching paper goods and floral arrangements.”

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