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The dining table inside Judith’s East Harlem brownstone is where she, her husband, and four children would gather for meals. It was the epicenter of family life where bodies were nourished, stories were shared, moments were honored. “We were very traditional about having dinner together as a family every night,” she said.
As in any home, the kids would one day leave to pursue life on their own. But when Judith’s husband—the man whom she knew was going to marry the first time she laid eyes on him—passed away, an even emptier nest left her so distraught she couldn’t take one step into the kitchen. “There wasn’t any point, there was no one to cook for,” she said.
For as long as Judith remembers, cooking for others had fed her soul. It was her passion. Judith knew she had to find a way to take better care of herself and nourish her wounded soul. Maybe creating a place at her table for others would help soothe the agony of loss and give her the strength to move forward.
This pursuit of self-healing compelled her to go online where she discovered Airbnb.
“We had the B&B since 2010 but only advertised locally,” said Judith, a retired chaplain who told us she’d lived in the home for 47 years. “For me it was a big step to contact Airbnb, but I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences ever since.”
Being a host has fully reignited Judith’s love for preparing and sharing food with others. Now she invites out-of-towners from around the world to pull up a chair to that same dining table. She has regulars: a family from Israel who visit two to three times a year, another from Canada who come once or twice a year. Fortunately for all of her guests, Judith has always had a soft spot for baking—breads in particular—but has branched out to scones and doughnuts. “Lemon scones are my new favorite.”
The moments she gets to spend and the memories she helps create for guests and their young children are a pretty sweet deal, too. “I have found that New York City has a near-mythic appeal for people all over the world,” said Judith. “They dream of being able to come here and share it with their families. But the cost can be prohibitive. We understand our purpose, especially as a place where families and extended families can come to strengthen their bonds and create shared memories at a reasonable price.”
Judith’s two grandsons, who live next door, are just as eager to meet the new visitors as she is because they’ve had some pretty cool encounters. Once, her older grandson, a big Tottenham Spurs fan, was “pumped” to learn that a guest’s best man was a famous footballer. And when a children’s book author booked the brownstone, her younger grandson bought a copy of the her book and got to have it personally autographed. A recent stay by a Christian singing group was also cause for excitement.
“Airbnb is a way to offer some of the love that’s in you. It’s also a way to receive so much,” said Judith. “I love to hear about different places and get a sense of what life is like in different cultures for different people.”