Reinvented Shabbat Project to ‘bring Shabbat home’ in more than 1,600 cities worldwide

November 5, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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In a world transformed by the coronavirus pandemic, the seventh annual international Shabbat Project is organizing virtual pre-Shabbat events and providing educational materials for an intimate home-based Shabbat experience in more than 1,600 cities and 106 countries from Nov. 6-7.

Since 2013, the annual event has brought together Jews of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities to keep one Shabbat together. This year, given the circumstances, it has reinvented itself, emphasizing the call to “Bring Shabbat Home.”

The project has created an array of educational resources that enhance the Shabbat-at-home experience, including a seven-step guide to observing Shabbat, as well as a compendium of enriching and inspiring ideas to read and share around the Shabbat table. Meanwhile, pre-Shabbat events around the world will include virtual challah bakes, online classes about Shabbat, cooking webcasts, global sing-a-thons and virtual synagogue tours.

Despite the necessity for partners and organizers worldwide to pivot towards online events and away from the large, citywide spectacles that have characterized the project over the years, the global initiative aims to make an impact this year through its timely objective: to restore some stability to our lives in a volatile and uncertain world.

“We have lived through times of chaos and confusion. But our homes have always been our havens. And Shabbat can ensure they remain so—places of stability and security, kindness and connection, warmth and love,” said the Shabbat Project’s founder and director, South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. “In a world turned upside-down, Shabbat can keep us the right way up.”

Amid the pandemic’s challenges, Goldstein said the response has exceeded expectations.

“Thousands of partners have again stepped forward, eager to bring the Shabbat experience to their communities,” he said. “New, innovative events and initiatives have begun to take shape. New participants are gearing up to experience a full Shabbat for the first time in their lives.”

‘Front-row access to Jewish life all over the globe’

One of the silver linings of this year’s exclusively online array of events is that geographical barriers have dissolved. Seed UK will broadcast an extraordinary 24-hour challah bake featuring 19 different live events from cities such as Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Sydney, Moscow, Toronto and New York. A pre-Shabbat event in Arizona featuring Latino pop singer Miriam Sandler will include participants from four continents. And in the wake of the Abraham Accords, an event hosted in Israel will include the Jewish communities of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait and Oman.

In Argentina, a challah bake will unite Jewish communities in 32 cities across the country for the first time. And Long Island’s “Cook and Connect” event, featuring young cooking sensation and “Chopped!” winner Rachel Goldzwal, will bring together teenagers from around the world to share traditional Shabbat dishes and cultural cuisines.

Elsewhere, a group of Israeli volunteers will be cooking and delivering all four Shabbat meals to Magen David Adom first responders in Ra’anana, Herzliya and Kfar Saba. A website in Denver is offering Shabbat meals, classes and “survival kits” on demand. And an all-day “women’s day” event hosted in Netanya will feature international singers, filmmakers and celebrity chefs.

“This is front-row access to Jewish life all over the globe,” says Goldstein. “You could attend a challah bake in Singapore, sit in on a Shabbat cooking class in Panama, make Kiddush in Melbourne, enjoy Kabbalat Shabbat at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and end off with Havdalah in Colombia. It’s an opportunity to experience different Jewish cultures and Shabbat traditions from the comfort of your home.”

In the movement’s founding country, the Shabbat Project’s head office in Johannesburg will distribute 7,500 bags filled with Shabbat-themed goodies to the South African Jewish community. In Boulogne, acclaimed Jewish historian Emmanuel Attyasse is leading a virtual tour of old Jewish France. And in Karnei Shomron, members of the religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva and largely secular Tzofim youth movements will be working together to deliver food parcels and flowers to residents most affected by the coronavirus.

The latter is an offshoot of “Flowers for Shabbat,” a new initiative that involves people across the world sending flowers and a personal message to a list of Israel-based recipient groups. Recipients include COVID-19 patients, doctors, frontline health-care workers, volunteer first responders, lone soldiers, elderly people who are isolated during the pandemic and others. At the time of writing, around 40,000 had been ordered. The flowers will be delivered on Friday, Nov. 6, just in time for Shabbat.

In Sydney, the Project is recreating the awesome feel of the first communal Shabbat Project challah bake and invite you to join it making challah with Jews across the world at our Global Virtual Challah Bake, Thursday 5 November, 7pm. For 24 hours women in Israel, Singapore, New York, Toronto, Peru, Mexico, Prague, Berlin and many more places will be making challah in unison in preparation and celebration of the Shabbat Project.

Rabbanit YehuditLaya Slavin and Justine Saidman will lead a very special challah bake, bringing the joy of Shabbat home to Sydney! Participants will hear about the spiritual dimension of making challah, the power of Shabbat, and learn how to make dough as well as various braiding techniques.

We’ll bake in our own homes with the same recipe and ingredients ready to go. Grandma Moses has generously provided complimentary ready-made dough pick up as an option to those who want.

Anyone can register free with friends, family or on their own. Shabbat Project Sydney is proud to be partnering with JNF AustraliaOur Big KitchenBJEJWavePJ LibraryGrandma Moses and JEMs on this wonderful event.

Because things are a little different this year, it gives us time to reflect on how fortunate we were to be able to put on so many incredible events in 2019. The Shabbat Shuk in Double Bay saw over 3,500 community members pass through to soak up the Machane Yehuda vibe, attend to all their Shabbat shopping needs, eat some delicious food and maybe share a drink with friends. It was a true highlight and a wonderful way to start what ended up being a record-breaking Shabbat. JNF together with Grandma Moses succeeded in baking the world’s longest challah – 10m! The Havdallah concert featuring Israeli-American Moshav Band was an uplifting way to end an action-packed Shabbat with over 80 events produced by 50 communal organisations. Truly inspiring!

We are fortunate in Australia that we are now able to have events and attend services, with many synagogues, schools and organisations putting on events including musical Friday night services, challah bakes, havdalah events and more.

Wishing Sydney and the world a Shabbat Shalom, let’s keep it together and bring Shabbat home.

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