The Shabbat Project – redefining community

October 26, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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More than 2,500 members of Sydney’s Jewish community participated in the concluding event of the Shabbat Project…celebrating Havdallah at the conclusion of Sydney’s involvement in the wold-wide Shabbat Project.

Vic Alhadeff, the CEO of the  NSW Jewish Board of Deputies city’s, the  Jewish administrative organisation, told J-Wire : “In all my 28 years of communal involvement I have never witnessed the reach that was in that Alexandria warehouse as Sydney saw the Shabbat out.”

Top musicians Hylton Chilchick, Ben Goldstein and Joel Sheftz performed and some of the city’s best known chazans recited the Havdallah blessings as the packed venue held Havdallah candles of their own.

Choirs from Moriah College and Mt Sinai College performed adding special flavour to the evening’s activities.

Speakers included project chairman Giora Friede, project manager Jonathan Gavshon and project leader Rabbi Benjy Levy.

Lennox St, Bellevue Hill

Lennox St, Bellevue Hill

Peter Philippsohn

Peter Philippsohn

An exhilarated Alhadeff added: “The sight of 2500 people waving Havdallah candles contributed to an evening which produced and extraordinary and positive experience.”

The Shabbat Project, created in South Africa this year, was embraced by 312 Jewish communities throughout the world.

President of the Jewish Communal Appeal Peter Philippsohn told J-Wire: “For me, one of the most heartwarming  sides to this venture was witnessing Jews of all persuasions embracing their common bond with each other. It has redefined community.”

Philippsohn questioned those who drove the Challah Bake attended on Thursday by 2,500 women and around 50 men as to why they were involved in the Havdallah event. “They told me that this is what it is all bout…how everyone was committed to help one another.

Rabbi Benjy Levy

Rabbi Benji Levy

As president of JCA, Philippsohn thought  he knew almost everyone involved in Sydney Jewish community life. He said: “At the major events I met so many people I had never seen before…and was specially amazed at the new faces of families entering when I helped the security at the beginning of the evening. I thought I would have an easy task identifying people for them…but was I surprised at the extent of hitherto unknown faces. Yes, the whole project has redefined community.”

Rolling up for Shabbat   Photos: Henry Benjamin

Rolling up for Shabbat Photos: Henry Benjamin

J-Wire understands that most of the city’s synagogues were packed out for Shabbat services with some challenging figures normally expected for Kol Nidre. A Friday night dinner held in a Bellevue Hill street for over 200 was fully booked   On Shabbat afternoon, many private homes became the venues for intimated drawing room meeting at which well-know community identities spoke.

For Moriah College’s Rabbi Benji Levy, the Project has been the culmination of a year’ work. He told J-Wire: “I was approached by Rabbi Warren Goldstein, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, who conceived The Shabbat Project to help create the project in Sydney. Now that’s it’s over everyone is commenting as how tired I must be…I am not. I am totally re-energised and filled with enthusiasm. I cannot wait to take this concept to even greater heights.”

Jonathan Gavshon told J-Wire: “As Project Manager it was exciting to bring the vision of uniting the Sydney community through one Shabbat experience to life.

The logistics and organisation was enormous but we managed to engage thousands of people in an experience will hopefully remember forever.

A special thanks to the Organising Committee and 300 plus volunteer team.  A very special thanks to Robyn Gerber who was alongside me the whole way with support, mentorship and deep communal passion and experience.”

The Shabbat Project, embraced in most Australian cities, will be an annual event.




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2 Responses to “The Shabbat Project – redefining community”
  1. karen richter says:

    just signing up for daily emails

  2. David Schulberg says:

    The big question: How many people turned out for the matching event in Melbourne?
    The fireworks were absolutely sensational, reminding us of the Hannukah celebrations that will soon take place.
    No Melbourne coverage by JWire?

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