Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included

In 2015, while traveling in Israel with 80 young tech professionals, Meghan Holzhauer fell in love with Shabbat dinner, the ancient Friday night tradition in which Jews bless candles, challah, and wine, then share a meal with loved ones. She was so inspired, in fact, that she started spreading the love. In March her travel startup, Canvus, took 40 young professionals to Mexico City, where they celebrated a multicultural Shabbat dinner. She’s now organizing a hip-hop Shabbat for 400 people attending a social justice conference in Atlanta in June. “A lot of Jewish rituals are about honoring friends and family,” she says. “You feel part of something bigger.”

Photographer: Tim O’Connell for Bloomberg Businessweek

Holzhauer isn’t Jewish. She was raised “Christian-light” by nonpracticing parents, she says, and has no interest in converting. As she explains it, a non-Jew finding inspiration in the Sabbath—or traveling to Israel for that matter—isn’t so different from the millions of non-Buddhists who practice yoga or go on meditation retreats to India. “It’s the latest way that ancient traditions are meeting modern life,” she says.

If there ever was a moment when Shabbat was poised to become the new yoga practice, it’s now. Interfaith marriage rates among American Jews have jumped from a little more than 40 percent in the 1980s to 58 percent in the period from 2000 to 2013. That’s a lot more newlyweds (plus their families and friends) with exposure to Jewish ceremonies and rituals. Call them “Jew-adjacent,” “Jew-curious,” or just “Jew-ish.”

“Jewish culture is in the mainstream, it’s popular, and that’s something any brand would want to jump on,” says Danya Shults, 31, founder of Arq, a lifestyle company that seeks to sell people of all faiths on a trendy, tech-literate, and, above all, accessible version of Jewish traditions. Arq is a portal for interfaith couples, their friends, and their…

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