“Real Housewives” dinners have a tendency to fly off the rails, but Eboni K. Williams — the New York franchise’s first Black cast member — prefers to exchange ideas instead of blows.
That was the goal of her Harlem Nights event earlier in the season, and also her Black Shabbat dinner that airs Tuesday night. Viewers will have to tune in to see how the Shabbat unfolds (in true “Housewives” fashion, there will be drama), but the intention was for it to be a time of reflection.
“If you come to an Eboni K. Williams event, you’re going to get deep,” Williams told TheWrap’s Lawrence Yee ahead of Tuesday’s episode. “You’re going to get vulnerable. You’re going to come away with a sense of something really powerful.”
“Some of my castmates leaned into that for Black Shabbat,” she continued.” “And I was really impressed and proud and even picked up the phone after the event to express that appreciation to her. And some folks were a hot-ass mess,” alluding to one castmate who was so inebriated she had to load up on carbs before the meal.
Williams, who is not Jewish, attended a life-changing Shabbat hosted by Archie Gottesman several years ago. The two — who are now close friends — serve as hosts for this episode’s dinner. And rather than a dinner at a fancy Manhattan restaurant, they purposely chose an intimate Shabbat.
“One thing that I’m really into is the shared humanity of all of us as Americans. Like you said, whether it’s Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous, just the concept of Shabbat — a day of rest a day of reflection, a day of holding space — I wanted to combine the cultural elements of what I celebrate in my work for Black liberation with the very beautiful values of Shabbat. And that’s how I got Black Shabbat, which was really focused on bringing the communities of Black and Jewish folks together in a really special way,” Williams explained.
“We do the Shabbat parts, and those include blessings and readings and blessings to each other on the table,” Gottesman added. “And then we really sit down and have questions that I think as people we don’t really think about all that often things like, ‘If you could live your life over, what would you do differently?’ Or, ‘What do you want written on your tombstone?'”
It’s that sharing that allows others to understand you, Gottesman says. “Shared humanity is about love and vulnerability,” she adds, echoing Williams.
Of course, some of Williams’ castmates — notably Ramona Singer and LuAnn de Lesseps — have recoiled at others sharing, particularly when Williams talks about her experience as a Black woman in America.
Williams has been on their side as well, when it came to learning about Jewish culture. JewBelong, a non-profit organization that Gottesman co-founded, helped Williams learn about Judaism in a respectful manner.
“It started originally just be just as is a way to rebrand Judaism,” Gottesman explained. “There’s a lot of commonality in any sort of organized faith and meaning. And it can get sort of covered over with rules. What JewBelong does is we’re rebranding it to say, “No, no, no, don’t get caught up in that stuff. It’s about it’s about the love, it’s about the heart, it’s about being a good person.”
Accessible to all — Jewish or not — JewBelong is resource on everything from understanding anti-Semitism to Yom Kippur. Williams has learned so much from Gottesman and JewBelong she’s become a board member.
“At my core, just a bit dorky student who’s always looking to learn,” Williams says of her interest in other cultures and religions. It’s a mission she and other first “Housewives” of color in the Bravo franchise are trying to share.
“I only very recently in the last couple of years, I’m ashamed to say, really just understood the deep history and some of the factual history of the Chinese Exclusion Act here in the United States of America,” she admitted. “There are systems at play that work very hard to make sure that none of us individually know our stories. And they really work to make sure that collectively we don’t know one another story, right. And a term that I learned from Archie early on was to rebuke the temptation of the oppression Olympics, and that it is through the work of you belong through the work of what I tried to do in my daily life. The work that Crystal [Kung Minkoff] is doing over in Beverly Hills, Tiffany [Moon] is doing in Dallas, Garcelle [Beauvais] is doing. This is the work of ‘Let me tell you me and my people’s story so that we have a deeper individual human connection.’ And when we each individually do that, know we change the world.
Watch TheWrap’s full interview with Eboni K. Williams and Archie Gottesman above. Click here to learn more about JewBelong and catch the Black Shabbat on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” Tuesday night.