The Shabbos Project is set to take place this Shabbat, in which Jewish communities, organizations, families and individuals around the world will observe the Sabbath in accordance with Jewish law.
The initiative, which will have participants in some 550 cites around the world this year, began in Johannesburg three years ago, led by South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein. The idea spread out rapidly across the globe, so that last year, Jews around the world committed to observing Shabbat and took part in communal meals, prayer services, as well as participating in challah bakes, havdala concerts and other activities.
In 2014, the Shabbos Project drew an estimated one million participants at hundreds of events, including a dinner for 1,000 people in Melbourne at a table 300 meters long, a halla bake in Buenos Aries attended by 4,500 women and in total 54,000 communal Shabbat meals around the world.
This year participants can access a PDF “Shabbat Map” with information on how to prepare for and observe the Sabbath, including points on the many Shabbat prohibitions, such as cooking and using electricity, and down to some of the fine details of Jewish law, such as taping up the fridge light, how to prepare a cup of tea or coffee and giving cellphones a rest for 25 hours.
One of the most common events include a mass challah bake, where dozens, hundreds and, in some cities, even thousands of people get together to bake the traditional plaited loaves used for Shabbat meals.
Another popular event is the havdala concerts marking the end of Shabbat, frequently featuring Jewish and Israeli artists and attracting large numbers.
Communal meals, prayer services and study sessions are among the other main components of many communities’ Shabbos Project activities, which are taking placing in cities from Sydney to San Francisco, Montevideo to Moscow, and everywhere in between.
To promote the event, Goldstein met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Monday to create a video of the two in dialogue about the Shabbos Project venture.
“Shabbat is so needed, just to have one day for the family, a day which is an island of tranquility and peace and quiet,” said Goldstein.
“There are challenges, but when people experience it they want more of it.”
Edelstein was full of praise for the initiative, but noted that in recent times religious issues themselves, such as Shabbat, along with other thorny issues, such as conversion, have in fact divided the Jewish people both in Israel and between the Israeli and Diaspora communities.
Edelstein said the modern world is realizing that productivity and creativity are increasingly bolstered by a day in which things are done differently from the rest of the week.
“This project is building, brick by brick, our future ability to keep the things that unite us,” he said.
“We can’t tell people exactly how to behave, but we can help them discover the Shabbat experience.”
In Israel, as well, numerous communities and organizations will take part in the venture, referred to by local participants as “Israeli Shabbat.”
The focus in Israel is on religious and non-religious families to eat a traditional Friday night dinner together to help bridge societal gaps and illustrate the common denominators between the country’s social groups.
The local participating organizations are Seventh Day, the Company of Community Centers, Beit Hillel rabbinical association, Gesher, Yahad, and Meetchabrim, and a Facebook for the project will shortly be opened for sign-up.
Approximately 50,000 people in 70 cities and towns in Israel took part last year.