I recently got an email inquiring if there is a Jewish version of Airbnb.
For the uninitiated, Airbnb is a site for finding vacation rentals and travel accommodations in private homes worldwide. They claim to have arranged lodgings for over 25 million people in 190 countries in private homes and even in 600 castles.
The question about a Jewish version of this service is valid for any time of the year, but I find it especially meaningful during Pessach.
Whoever is hungry – come eat with us!
In the early sections of the Pessach Haggadah, we recite the phrase כל דכפין יתי ויכול “Whoever is hungry – come eat with us!”. We don’t say this on any other Holiday; only on Pessach.
Pessach is known as a family festival even in the least traditional circles. We gather together; family, friends and casual guests, to recite the Haggadah, eat Matsah, Marror, feast on a delicious meal and sing the traditional songs. This isn’t a random ethnic development but rather a central part of how the festival is celebrated since we came out of Egypt over 3300 years ago. From the first Pessach Seder till today we eat as a family group. Not alone. Hospitality is a priority on Pessach.
There is nothing foreign about Jews renting out accommodations for vacation. Just check out how many hotels there are in Israel and in prime Jewish vacation spots like Davos, Switzerland, the Catskills and everywhere else. Private people rent out their homes too. But there’s nothing distinctly “Jewish” about it. It’s pure business. For some reason I don’t connect with the idea of a Jewish Airbnb. The Jewish model of hospitality from the time of Abraham, is central to our collective identity more than any business model.
Here are a few examples:
Chabad: They have a comprehensive search engine to find nearly every Chabad House on the globe. I write “nearly” because I discovered one Chabad House somewhere that wasn’t publicized on their site for security reasons, but when you contact the administrators about specific locations, they’ll tell you. Meals are usually free on Shabbos and Yom Tov. They only charge during the week to cover costs. Check out their site at Chabad-Lubavitch Centers – Advanced Search.
Jeff Seidel: He has a comprehensive worldwide listing of contacts and places to stay at his Online Jewish Travel Guide.
Shabbat.com: This site is very similar in design to the Airbnb site but you are hosted for free. To quote their site:
Shabbat.com was established as a Jewish social network to allow people to connect and meet in a safe and friendly environment. Perfect for those traveling for business, backpacking across the country, studying abroad, or simply looking for a little inspiration.
JewGether: Jewgether was started by Israeli students, not necessarily religious Jews, with a mission in mind. To quote their website:
Jewgether is a social network that connects Jewish people from all over the world, allowing them to host or be hosted by one another. Jewgether’s mission is to encourage Jews all over the world to open their homes, hearts and minds to each other. No matter what kind of Jew one is, Jewgether offers an opportunity to get acquainted with and to learn from one another.”.
I’m not personally familiar with their service but the idea is wonderful.
In summary, renting out a place to stay is perfectly legit, but for it to be considered an authentically Jewish act, hospitality is closer to the mark.
BTW, those utilizing the authentic Airbnb services, see my post on Kashering Skills For Residential Vacations.