From Strangers to Family: The Power of Hosting in the Jewish Community

Gayle Schindler, a professional chef, and her husband, Joel, have a long history of opening their home for holidays. When the opportunity arose to host a guest for Rosh Hashanah, the decision was a natural one.

“We always opened our home to people who didn’t have a place to go,” Gayle said.

Monté, a young artist from Cincinnati, found a welcoming place at the Schindlers’ table for Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and Thanksgiving.

“From the moment I showed up, it was like I was already part of the family,” they said.

Monté and Gayle’s story began last year on Rosh Hashanah when they registered on Cincy Jewfolk’s holiday matching form, Gayle as a host and Monte as a guest. Their story is one of hospitality, shared traditions, and the creation of chosen families within the Jewish community.

Gayle, with decades of hosting experience under her belt, has welcomed an array of guests into her home, each with their own unique stories. Although originally from Cincinnati, she has experienced lots of change in her life, moving from city to city. She notes difficulties finding her place within Jewish communities in new cities.

“When we first moved from [Cincinnati]  to Washington D.C. and didn’t know anyone, the sense of isolation was palpable,” she said. “That first Seder we hosted just the two of us, singing every song, it was magical.”

The Schindlers started taking in guests soon after. Alongside her husband, Joel, Gayle has transformed their Passover Seder into a sanctuary of inclusivity and warmth.

“We’ve had college students, people new to town, marginalized Jews who didn’t feel part of a community…one year, we had a couple who had a baby literally the day before the Seder,” she said.

As a professional chef, Gayle is committed to creating a meaningful Seder experience. She ensures that every element, from the storytelling to the songs, is engaging and informative.

“We do a lot of work putting the Seder together. We talk a lot about the Haggadah and how it was put together,” she said.

Her enthusiasm for cooking and sharing her culinary creations adds another layer of warmth to the gatherings.

Monté’s experience with Schindler’s family during various Jewish holidays is not all serious. The holiday meals transcended mere formalities, evolving into moments of genuine connection.

“I thought the dinner was going to be serious and formal…it was just very fun, light-hearted, and meaningful,” Monté said.

Their initial apprehension about joining a new family for such an important occasion quickly dissipated.

“I was nervous at first, worried about fitting in, especially as a non-binary person. But Gayle and her family made me feel so accepted from the start. It was like finding a new home,” Monté said.

Monté and Gayle’s relationship is one of mutual giving. As an artist, Monte has gifted several of their ceramic works to Gayle and Joel.

“I’ve brought some of my ceramic works to Gayle’s home, like pomegranate dishes and wall hangings. It’s my way of contributing to this beautiful tradition we share,” they said.

In turn, they have learned much from their new relationship with the Schindlers.

“One of the most special moments was learning about Jewish history through food. Gayle told me this story about Cholent Pots, and it just connected me to something bigger than myself,” Monté said.

Ultimately, Monte and Gayle’s story is not just about sharing holiday meals but a testament to the profound impact of opening one’s home and heart to others.

“Don’t hesitate to host,” said Gayle. “Opening your home to someone can bring unexpected joy and fulfillment, not just to your guests but to you as well. We say at the Seder, ‘All who are hungry, come and eat,’ and we live by that. It’s about more than just food; it’s about opening your heart.”

Monte and Gayle’s story highlights the importance of kindness, and community and offers a blueprint for creating chosen families, one meal at a time.

If you are interested in participating in Passover Seder Matching 2024, Fill out our matching form here!