Warren Goldstein .
(photo credit: EITAN AROM)
Jewish communities worldwide will participate in the Shabbos Project this week, organizing events for Friday and Saturday.
The project began in South Africa last year with the intention of promoting Jewish unity through Shabbat observance.
More than one million people are expected to participate this year.
The project is based in Johannesburg and headed by South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, but events are organized locally by Jewish organizations around the world.
“People are just running with this,” Goldstein said on Monday.
“The power of this thing is that it’s properly what we call in Hebrew a tnua amamit – a people’s movement.”
Goldstein’s organization has taken out advertisements – including a series of bus ads and billboards within Israel – and circulated instructional materials for how to keep Shabbat, including a step-by-step toolkit for observance.
Beyond that, he said, it simply asks Jews to observe to the religious provisions of Shabbat and celebrate however they choose. Nearly 70,000 people have pledged online to adhere to the Shabbos Project’s manifesto, promising to lay down the burdens of everyday life and adopt the spirit of Shabbat.
The project began in South Africa as a local event, but rapidly garnered interest overseas.
“After the amazing South African experience, all these emails started coming in from around the world,” Goldstein said.
Communities as far flung as Nigeria and Australia have organized events, such as Friday night dinners, halla baking sessions and havdala concerts.
The movement has a strong foothold in large Jewish population centers such as Toronto, New York and Los Angeles, but has spread to smaller communities such as in Abuja, Nigeria, and Potters Bar, a town in Hertfordshire, England. More than 340 localities will hold events.
In Jerusalem, the Nofet Tzofim community organization will hold a number of events in the French Hill neighborhood, including a halla bake on Thursday night, a concert of Shabbat songs on Friday afternoon, and an outdoor seudat shlishit meal later on Friday.
In Tel Aviv, a champagne kiddush reception and Shabbat dinner are planned for Friday night at the Beit El Synagogue and a potluck picnic will be held the following afternoon in Independence Park.
Other events are planned for Ra’anana and Rehovot.
Though many Israeli Jews are commonly portrayed as vehemently secular, Goldstein said positive feedback has poured in from across the country.
“There’s this conventional wisdom about Israel, and it’s dead wrong,” he said.
The project has garnered a number of prominent spokespeople – including Alex Clare, an Orthodox London-based rock artist whom record label Island Records dropped in part because he refused to perform on Shabbat or Jewish holidays.
But the project is aimed at spreading the spirit of Shabbat to rank-and-file Jews in Israel and abroad.
“Want an alternative to work and hard labor?” wrote one Israeli on the event’s Facebook page. “Family, friends, quality time, recreation, culture, entertainment, hobbies and much, much more.”