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Filling a Jewish Void: Robert J. Saferstein

Filling a Jewish Void: Robert J. Saferstein

Robert J. Saferstein has dedicated his career to “broadening the definition of what ‘Jewish’ can look like” by building community — one of his many motivations behind starting Friday Night Lights, a series of pop-up Shabbat dinners for gay Jewish professionals that attracts people from different religious and ideological backgrounds.

“I try to find places where there are voids in satisfying a need, and then attempt to fill them,” he says. When it came to Friday Night Lights, Saferstein noticed that there was a lack of upscale, sophisticated events catering to the gay Jewish population.

Taking place at unique venues throughout New York, a typical Friday Night Lights dinner will include hors d’oeuvres and specialty cocktails. As Saferstein explains “the idea behind it was to marry an underground dining experience with a salon-style gathering.”

The recipient of two Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs for Friday Night Lights, Saferstein has been hard at work on his next initiative, Eighteen:22, which will bring together today’s top LGBTQ Jewish influencers and allies from around the world for a three-day think tank that will “lay the foundations for a global network of leaders emboldened in the execution of their ideas and change initiatives for the 21st century.”

In addition to his community building and organizing, Saferstein, who studied photography and interactive telecommunications at NYU, serves as market development director for Sh’ma, a monthly Jewish journal. As he explains, “Our goal is to facilitate deep and meaningful conversations around these topics through the Jewish sensibility of elu v’elu, (Hebrew for “this and this.”). Only by engaging with perspectives different from our own, can we grow as a people.”

Broadway star: Saferstein served as the founding creative director of and was the production photographer on numerous Broadway shows including “Race,” “Superior Donuts,” “Hair” and “August: Osage County.” He also designed the websites for Race and Superior Donuts, and was the key art photographer for “All About Me.

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