Shabbat Project Brings Virtual Shabbat Events to More Than 1,600 Cities Worldwide

November 2, 2020
From the Facebook Shabbat Project page

In a world transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a heated presidential election in the United States, South African based group The Shabbat Project is organizing virtual pre-Shabbat and Shabbat events so Jews can take a much needed break from the 24-hour news cycle.

From Nov. 6 to Nov. 7, The Shabbat Project — which has brought Jews of all ages and backgrounds together for weekly Shabbat services since 2013— will provide education and spiritual materials for an intimate home Shabbat experience in more than 1,600 cities and 106 countries.

Given stay-at-home and social distancing regulations, Shabbat Project has reinvented itself, emphasizing the idea that families and friends can still celebrate “Shabbat at Home” safely during the pandemic.

Amid COVID-19 challenges, Shabbat Project’s founder and director Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein said in a statement that the response to the Shabbat Project has exceeded expectations.

“We have lived through times of chaos and confusion. But our homes have been havens. And Shabbat can ensure they remain so – places of stability and security, kindness and connection, warmth and love,” Goldstein said. “In a world turned upside down, Shabbat can keep us the right way up,”

The project includes everything a family unit would need to prepare for Shabbat on their website. If this is your first time welcoming in Shabbat, check out the seven-step guide to observing Shabbat. For frequent observers and those brushing up on their Shabbat knowledge the website also includes checklists, reflections, virtual prayer sheets and videos to prepare for the 24-hour holiday.

Pre-Shabbat events will take place around the world and will include virtual challah bakes, online Shabbat classes, cooking webcasts, global sing-a-thons, and virtual synagogue tours.

Because everything is virtual this year and events are online, the geographical barriers dissolve. Seed UK —an adult and family Jewish education organization— will broadcast a 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. 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.

Challah bakes are also set to take place in Argentina, which will unite Jewish communities in 32 cities across the country for the first time. Long Island’s “Cook and Connect” event, will feature young chef and Food Network’s “Chopped”winner Rachel Goldzwal, who will bring together teenagers from around the world to share traditional Shabbat dishes and cultural cuisines. An all-day “women’s day” event hosted in Netanya will also feature celebrity chefs, international singers and filmmakers.

“This is front-row access to Jewish life all over the globe,” Goldstein said. “You could attend a challah bake in Singapore, sit in on a Shabbat cooking class in Panama, enjoy Kabbalat Shabbat at the kotel, 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.”

This isn’t just an opportunity to connect with Jews all over the world, it is an opportunity for communities to give back. A group of Israeli volunteers will be cooking and delivering all four Shabbat meals to Magen David Adom first responders in Raanana, Herzliya, and Kfar Saba. A website in Denver is offering Shabbat meals, Shabbat classes and Shabbat “survival kits” on demand.

This isn’t just an opportunity to connect with Jews all over the world, it is an opportunity for communities to give back.

In South Africa, where the movement first formed, 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 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 of the town affected by COVID-19.

In a new Shabbat Project initiative, “Flowers for Shabbat,” people across the world can send flowers and personal messages to a list of people in Israel including COVID-19 patients, doctors, frontline healthcare workers, volunteer first responders, lone soldiers and elderly people who are isolated during the pandemic, among others. Around 40,000 had been ordered so far and will be delivered on Friday Nov. 6, in time for Shabbat.

While the 2020 Shabbat Project arrives during an intense time for many around the world, Goldstein believes that Shabbat especially virtual Shabbat can provide positive, unifying and peaceful energies that people are craving.

“In these turbulent times, Shabbat can be a safe-haven for us, a respite from the 24-hour news cycle, and from all the negativity and divisions that are ravaging our society,” he said. “Right now, we’re desperate for a better world – and we can build it: right here at home, with our families, within our four walls. May this Shabbat be a force for unity and healing. May we all find calm and comfort in Shabbat.”

For more information about The Shabbat Project or to find events in your time zone, visit the website.

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