It was not Yom Kippur, yet a long line of men waited to enter Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, Maryland, on March 31. They were here for the Ninth Annual Guys Night Out, a night of meat, scotch, and Torah learning. About 550 men filled the synagogue for the sold-out event.
According to Mark Eidelman, founder of Guys Night Out, broccoli was not allowed at the event. “Tonight isn’t a night for worrying about your food,” he said. “It’s a night for learning, connecting, and being in the moment.” Michael Peck, a vegetarian, takes this message seriously. For Guys Night Out, he switches from herbivore to carnivore.
While food played a pivotal role at Guys Night Out, with highlights including all-you-can-eat kosher ribs and barbecued chicken along with a wide selection of scotches, it’s more than just a feast. “I wouldn’t allow this event in the if it was just eating and drinking,” said Rabbi Nissan Antine of Beth Sholom. “The community, the connections, and the Torah are singular and valuable.”
Rabbi Dov Linzer, president and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah came down from New York for this event. He came to teach, but also to learn what makes Guys Night Out tick.
“In our generation, there are fewer and fewer men-only spaces. This is a chance for learning and connecting. Men connect vertically, across generations, and horizontally, with the wider Jewish community,” Rabbi Linzer said. He wants to bring the spirit of Guys Night Out back to his yeshiva to help his students construct their own meaningful and energized events.
“My connection to Chovevei is very significant,” said Rabbi Antine. “Outside of my family, Rabbi Linzer is the one person who has had the greatest impact on my life. He is full of love of passion for Torah and mitzvot and Halacha. It is wonderful have my Rebbe here with me this Shabbos. We have the opportunity to reconnect, spend Shabbos together and teach Torah together.”
Isaac Gendelman enjoyed the intergenerational bonding opportunity Guys Night Out presents. “I’m 95 years old, I survived the Holocaust by hiding from the Nazis in the woods in Poland. I’m here with my son Asher, my grandson, and many friends,” he said.
The event isn’t cheap, with the least expensive tickets going for $125 a head. But that doesn’t stop men from returning year after year. “I’m here for the people. When I come, I get to see the entire Jewish community, not just those who pray in my shul,” said Asher Gendelman. “This is my seventh year — I meet new people, I also bring new people.”
More than 15 alcohol vendors sponsored the event, and they showcased their wares at the back of the room. “The crowd here is incredibly diverse and comes from all over. We’ve seen the impact on sales,” said Edward Ofori, regional manager of Castle Brands.
Attendees echoed Ofori’s assessment. “It’s one of the most exciting events of the year,” said Danny Krifcher. “Amazing networking. There is nothing else like this!”
“Everybody is so busy, it’s one night a year when we get to see everyone,” Peck explained. “This isn’t just a get-together, it’s a reunion.”
By Ariel Levi