Shabbat project for religious, secular unity set for upcoming weekend

The goal of the project is to establish Shabbat as a day for building bridges between religious and non-religious communities.

October 22, 2014 16:28
2 minute read.
White city shabbat organization

White city shabbat organization. (photo credit: COURTESY WHITE CITY SHABBAT)

The Shabbat Initiative of Beit Hillel will be taking place this year for the second time with some 1,000 families in Israel already signed up to host or be hosted for a Shabbat meal this coming weekend.

The goal of the project is to establish Shabbat as a day for building bridges between religious and non-religious communities and to help reach a consensus among different societal sectors as to the nature of Shabbat in the public realm.

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The primary tool is to have religious and secular people host or be hosted at each other’s homes for a Shabbat meal. This year’s project also includes several conferences, communal Shabbat events and various other initiatives to promote social solidarity and unity, including a drive to buy from businesses in the south badly affected by this summer’s conflict in Gaza, hosting lone soldiers and other similar enterprises.

Partners with Beit Hillel in the project include the Association of Community Centers, Hamidrasha at Oranim, the Tikkun Movement, the Israel Democracy Institute, Binah - Secular Yeshiva, Gesher, and others.

In addition, an International Shabbat Project is also set for the upcoming weekend, in more than 340 cities and 30 countries around the world.

Initiated by South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, the international project has similar goals to the Israeli version and is desinged to promote unity among Jews and includes numerous communal events and a commitment to “lay down the burdens of everyday life and adopt the spirit of Shabbat,” according to the rabbi.

One of the big Jewish groups to take part is WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, which says it has 200,000 participating in the event.

A poll done ahead of the event by the Geocartography polling and esearch group found that 51% of the public is in favour of making Sunday into a non-working weekend day, and making up the working hours during the rest of the week and on Friday.

In addition, the poll found that 60% of those polled expressed an interest in disconnecting from electronic devices and social networks on Shabbat.

Beit Hillel director Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth said the results proved that it was time to advance the idea of switching Friday with Sunday as a non-working day and that the public was now ready for such a move.

He also said that the poll showed a desire to among the Israeli public to “connect with the values of Shabbat.”

“Technological developments and the conditions of modern life strengthen the need to stop one day a week and to connect to ones self, to family and to community,” Neuwirth said.

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