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THE JEWISH HOSTESS: IGNITING A SPARK OF TRADITION

By: Miriam Sasson

            Ask any community member what has kept his or her family together, and invariably, the answer will be something having to do with the mother’s cooking. “My mother made the best samboosak!” many people passionately boast. That is the background of The Jewish Hostess, says its founder, Mrs. Marlene Mamiye of Brooklyn, New York.

            The Jewish Hostess is a forum to connect Jewish women and their families in their mission of perpetuating Jewish tradition. Its website, and, more popularly, its Instagram, feature Shabbat and holiday themed posts – tips, recipes, photos of set tables and all things hosting – from women both in the community and around the world.

PAST…

            Seven years ago, Marlene Mamiye launched the Jewish Hostess web blog. Three years later, she established it on Instagram, the main forum for her posts. Her motivation was twofold.

            “I wanted a job,” says Marlene, “but, at first glance, I had no marketable skills. I researched continuing education and found a whole list of options. But what I also discovered was that women – this was nearly 10 years ago – were growing more computer savvy.” Marlene brainstormed, and the concept behind The Jewish Hostess took root.

            Marlene’s business acumen was the brains behind The Jewish Hostess, but her passion and creativity were its heartbeat. Her sincere desire to connect with likeminded women in the community in an exciting manner fueled The Jewish Hostess’ successful launch. She knew she could not just sell advertising space on the site. “I had to gather interest and make it fun,” Marlene reflects.

            From the start, she recalls, she knew what she would name her website. “The Jewish Hostess – the title in itself garners interest and gathers the community’s women.” Marlene posted photos – first on her website, and later, on Instagram – of beautiful tables set by women in the community and waited for the feedback. The response of the Jewish women was swift and enthusiastic.

PRESENT…

To date, The Jewish Hostess boasts over 17,000 followers on Instagram. This astonishing figure includes women from all over the world: Israel, Russia, Panama, and elsewhere. These women are inspired by the commitment to Jewish minhagim (traditions) and family bonds that are formed because of a measure of creativity and thought invested into Shabbat and Holiday meals.

“Our families were in Syria, or neighboring countries, together,” Marlene says. They valued their minhagim and holiday meals which kept them together, and Marlene seeks to instill the same sentiment in today’s modern, digital age. The way to do it, she believes, is by making table setting an exciting, “cool” undertaking. “And the way to do that is to take table setting to the next level.” Tablecloths, napkin rings, flowers, placemats, and other knickknacks all contribute to a beautiful table. Just as people today have a variety of shoes and earrings, Marlene muses, they can have a variety of ways to set a table, too. “You just need more to excite young people today.”

Marlene invests a great deal of thought into The Jewish Hostess, and she loves when Jewish women send her photos of their tables and food presentations. “That’s the difference between Martha Stewart and me,” she says with a laugh. “It’s not about my ideas and talents; rather, about everyone else’s.”

She also posts inspiring and timely quotes, weekly candle lighting times, happy holiday wishes, messages of support for Israel, and happenings in the community that “go with the grain of hosting.” She is glad that she uses social media in a positive way by bringing families together.

            And the feedback?

One woman informed Marlene that, inspired by The Jewish Hostess, she began buying flowers in honor of Shabbat.

Another lady, from Texas, emailed Marlene a heartfelt note of appreciation along with her incredible story. Before Shavuot this past spring, this woman’s mother was hospitalized, and the prognosis was grim. The upcoming holiday had taken a back seat in her mind, and so she opted to just “wing it” and use paper plates and plastic-ware. That is, until she visited The Jewish Hostess. She was so inspired by what she saw, that she changed her frame of mind as she approached the holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah. She climbed on the ladder to retrieve her mother’s nicest dishes and adorned the holiday table with flowers. It transformed the atmosphere at home and the children’s mood – all thanks to Marlene Mamiye of The Jewish Hostess.

…AND FUTURE

            Marlene exhorts mothers and mothers-to-be to pour their hearts into the Shabbat and holiday table and food presentations.

“There are so many resources to be creative. There are so many more stores selling housewares.” It doesn’t have to be expensive, she notes. Mix and match ribbons or vases. The key is to make it festive. “Your table is an extension of your personality; it is an expression of YOU!” Some may go for a black-and-white look, while others will choose roses and pinks.

Marlene emphasizes that today’s youth need the extra “oomph.” She explains, “When my kids come home and see a set table, it makes them feel special.”

She ends with a message to fellow mothers: “You are creating memories through food and color. Your kids will take it with them until they grow up and want to give over the same values to their own children.”

In other words, the little bit of extra time, thought and work is well worth it – for the fond memories will be cherished and preserved for many, many years into the future.

For more information, visit The Jewish Hostess online or on Instagram.