Professor Hank Richardson and Cydney Schwartz

Cydney Schwartz, a local design student and Congregation Shearith Israel member, truly thought outside the box in fulfilling an unusual classroom assignment.

She created Nora’s “Stranger’s Shabbat” in memory of her professor’s wife, with the purpose of bringing together college age and young professional strangers to share in Friday night Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) dinners where they could meet, share a meal, and feel welcome, safe and part of a larger community. The inaugural Nora’s Stranger’s Shabbat Dinner will be held on Friday, March 31 at 7 p.m. at Congregation Shearith Israel, 1180 University Drive.

Schwartz, a student at Atlanta’s Portfolio Center, completed the project in memory of Nora Richardson, the wife of beloved Portfolio Center professor Hank Richardson. As Schwartz researched Nora, she discovered a loving wife, mother, friend and social worker who devoted her life to helping people. “No matter who you were – whether you’d known her for five years or five minutes – Nora treated you like family,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz found that Nora’s ability to invite strangers into her home and share caring moments was a true gift, and a quality that helped build a stronger, kinder and more loving community, earning her home the nickname, “Hotel Richardson.” Nora believed that “no one should ever have dinner alone. It’s a time meant to be enjoyed with loved ones through eating, laughter and conversation.”

According to Schwartz, the Nora’s Stranger’s Shabbat Dinner program will “focus on reaching college students and young professionals of any faith. In both cases, these are people who might find themselves in a new environment away from what they are comfortable with, and this Shabbat experience will help ease their process of finding a sense of community and belonging.”


Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.