2017 SHABBAT PROJECT FINAL ROUND-UP
It is deeply moving to watch how The Shabbos Project has matured over the past five years. It has become part of the fabric of the international Jewish calendar, and touches so many people from so many diverse backgrounds in so many different ways.
The Shabbos Project experience has become deeper and more meaningful for Jewish communities worldwide. It has been so beautiful to see how keeping Shabbos has become accessible to all of us – how we are connecting more often and more deeply with the joy of Shabbos, which seems to be more needed with every passing day in our crazy, beautiful world.
Enjoy this global snapshot of The Shabbos Project 2017.
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Around the world
This year’s fourth international Shabbos Project reached 1 416 cities and 97 countries around the world. More than one million people took part in celebrations on and around the Shabbos of 27 and 28 October.
In the US alone – from Teaneck to Thompsonville, Miami to Mableton, Baltimore to Bridgeport – there were a total of 586 participating cities, with an estimated 20 000 people taking part in locations such as LA and San Diego.
In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin officially endorsed the project – joining public figures as varied as Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Ron Huldai, Yair Lapid, Aviv Alush, Natan Sharansky and Amir Ohana. There were 307 participating cities and 331 main events taking place across the country, not including countless Shabbat meals and Kiddush gatherings in streets, parks and apartment buildings.
Europe (48 participating cities in France, 31 in Russia and around 100 000 people taking part in the UK, where Prime Minister Theresa May commended the project); Latin America (138 cities); and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne each had more than 10 000 participants) all had record numbers celebrating this year’s Shabbos Project, while countries such as Mozambique, Cyprus, Paraguay and Venezuela hosted Shabbos Project festivities for the first time.
From the field
To coordinate the initiative on this scale, the head office in Johannesburg worked with more than 8 000 partners worldwide – up from 6 000 partners in 2016.
Event reports and personal stories continue to stream in from all over the world, and while we work to consolidate all of the information, here is what people are saying:
“Two years ago, my family decided to join The Shabbos Project. We had never before kept Shabbat. After the 25 hours were over, I had such a great feeling. We participated again last year, and for some reason, I felt even better. This year everything just felt right. Tomorrow we will be moving to a new residence within the Plano eruv, and within walking distance of shul, so we can keep Shabbat. I would like to thank everyone who showed us what Shabbat is all about.”
– Ilana Panush, Plano, Texas
“I helped organise 17 Challah Bakes throughout Florida. Considering Florida had recently suffered from Hurricane Irma, it is amazing that any events actually materialised. Many people were without power and air conditioning for weeks after the storm. Then we went right into the Jewish holidays. We had an entire state of ‘exhausted’ people. But Floridians mustered their best efforts and pulled off 17 sold-out inspirational Challah Bakes, each with their own special flair.”
– Alyssa Baumgarten, Miami, USA
“We had an amazing, highly emotional Shabbat and people literally shed tears. Nearly 400 people took part in the event held on the main road of the yishuv. The participants were young and old. Elderly Holocaust survivors and senior citizens mixed with children of five. Observant Jews joined with non-observant Jews. Everyone sat in silence when the rabbi of the yishuv said Kiddush. Tears streamed from a group of women who, for nearly 30 years, had not heard Kiddush and had not experienced an atmosphere and a group of Jews like they did on this holy day. A Holocaust survivor was completely overcome with emotion. It was an extraordinary event that left no one untouched.”
– Etti Cohen, Bnei Ayish, Israel
“It’s an amazing project. A worldwide Shabbat that all of us keep together – observant, not observant, less connected, more connected. I think there’s something so beautiful and unifying in it. Personally, I first encountered The Shabbat Project three years ago and I remember telling my wife, ‘Yalla, let’s give it a shot, what do we have to lose?’. And it was just a magical experience – the family bonding, the quiet, the disconnecting. Just one Shabbat, together.”
– Aviv Alush, Israeli actor
“In Lima, we had 240 people attend a Challah Bake at a local school. After sifting 600 kilos of flour to make hundreds of loaves, we spontaneously broke out into Rikudim [Israeli folk dancing]. The best part was seeing all the photos afterwards – the joy on the faces of all the women doing this sacred Jewish rite. This was our fourth year participating and we have put together the proceeds of all four Challah Bakes to create a special app with Jewish classes to educate the community.”
– Fanny Levy, Lima, Peru
“We made Kiddush, we ate, danced, and sang at the Shabbat table, with 40 students from ages 16 to 25. We celebrated well into the night.”
– Lavi Olami, Budapest, Hungary
“I’ve kept the Shabbat for several years now, and, honestly, I don’t know how to put into words what this day means for me. I guess you could say Shabbat is my best friend. I wait for it starting Sunday, and I can’t survive without it. The Shabbat Project is an extra special Shabbat – a Shabbat we all keep together wherever we are in the world, whatever ‘group’ we belong to, wherever we are on our own personal journeys. One day to put everything aside, lay down our phones, and really be with ourselves, with our families, with our friends. A day of real blessing and comfort.”
– Natan Goshen, Israeli singer-songwriter
“A remarkable Shabbat in Camps Bay. Nine new families keeping Shabbat. One woman said, ‘This is great – I could do this every week.’ At our communal lunch, while we were singing, 96-year-old Holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal got up on her chair and started dancing. There were two kids who walked five kilometres through to neighbouring Sea Point to attend a friend’s bar mitzvah. A few families made arrangements to stay close by, renting airbnb apartments or staying at friends, just so they could walk to shul.”
– Rabbi Yochi Ziegler, Cape Town, South Africa
“The women and girls from across the island arrived before candle lighting and we all lit together. Many had never lit before. The children had a special programme during Kabbalat Shabbat. Afterwards, we celebrated with an amazing meal made by a variety of women from our community – there were Moroccan, Ashkenazi, Tripoli foods. It was very colourful and tasty. We had 100 people for Friday night and many of them returned the next day.”
– Shaindel Raskin, Larnaca, Cyprus
“Spontaneous dancing at Kabbalat Shabbat, passionate singing at the Havdallah Concert. It was amazing to have so many people. An inspirational experience.”
– Ori Bergman, Buffalo, USA
“The feeling that was created when the community came together in celebration of Shabbat made you feel a deep sense of belonging, that you are a part of something bigger than yourself, your family or even your Sydney community.”
– Lauren Kavnat, Sydney, Australia
“I live in Nelson, New Zealand, a town of approximately 150 Jews, where we’ve tried to ‘Keep It Together’ over the past three years (sadly, we no longer have a shul – it was closed over 100 years ago). Last weekend, my family being away, I decided to do The Shabbat Project all by myself. It was a wonderfully peaceful and meaningful 25 hours. Given our geographic location, I guess, along with other New Zealanders, I would have been among the first people on the planet to usher in Shabbat. I’m very much looking forward to participating again next year, and I’m hoping to observe a few more full Shabbats over the year.”
– Richard Noar, Nelson, New Zealand
At the hub
At The Shabbos Project headquarters, in Johannesburg, a team of designers, copywriters and campaign strategists worked around the clock, custom-designing marketing and educational materials for hundreds of cities.
Meanwhile, eight separate help desks at the international call centre in Tel Aviv fielded tens of thousands of calls and emails across 10 different languages.
That The Shabbos Project was able to spread to new cities and reach new people can be attributed in no small part to a Facebook campaign that reached more than five million people worldwide.
In the media
The 2017 Shabbos Project garnered coverage in major mainstream publications such as the Chicago Tribune, the San Diego Tribune, the Huffington Post and the London Times; major Jewish media houses such as the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, the Forward, Algemeiner and JTA; local Jewish newspapers across the US; and all of Israel’s main news sites.