Jews around the world keeping it together for Israel
As South Africa gears up for this week’s Shabbat Project, with challah bakes in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, and a raft of programming at shuls and schools, our community joins Jews in more than 1 500 cities worldwide preparing to “keep it together for Israel”.
“The barbaric attacks launched by Hamas weren’t about borders or political objectives, they target the very existence of the Jewish people,” said Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein. “It’s no coincidence that Hamas attacked on Shabbat. This year’s Shabbat Project is a call for every Jew in every corner of the globe to keep Shabbat. A sublime moment of global Jewish unity. One people. One heart. One Shabbat.”
Initially focused on celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the project, this year’s Shabbat Project is now devoted entirely towards strengthening and unifying the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the Jewish world.
In Israel itself, events are going ahead in spite of the war, with many taking place within the confines of bomb shelters.
There are scores of challah bakes and havdalah concerts in which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has given the go-ahead for mass gatherings. Special Kabbalat Shabbat services are being held at about 100 hotels around the country that are sheltering evacuees from Sderot. A number of regions are co-ordinating Shabbat dinners for displaced families from the north and south of Israel, with countless families hosting evacuees for Shabbat in their homes.
Volunteers are also distributing thousands of challahs, candles, and Shabbat food to Israeli families in which a parent has been drafted for military service, while organisers are delivering Shabbat meals and challahs to IDF bases.
“This year’s celebrations may look slightly different. In Ofakim, for example, events are being planned in shelters to protect residents from missile fire and security concerns. But we’ll continue to move forward,” says Aharon Ackerman, who runs the project in Israel.
“We’re in awe of the bravery and strength of the people of Israel,” says Goldstein. “We’re not only ‘keeping it together for Israel’, we’re keeping it together with Israel.”
More than 400 events are taking place across France, Switzerland and Belgium, with a focus on students and young professionals, including Strasbourg where Jewish Ukrainian refugees will be formally welcomed into the community, and Nice, hosting more than a dozen city-wide events. Meanwhile, more than 6 000 Jews throughout the region will be participating in learning groups around Goldstein’s new book, Shabbat: A Day to Create Yourself.
In Latin America, organisers are anticipating record turnouts and reporting “unprecedented unity”, with challah bakes, Shabbat dinners, and havdalah concerts to be held under the banner “Stronger Together”. Panama has led the way, with families throughout the country paired for Shabbat meals, and countless Shabbat kits distributed.
In North America, the number of volunteer partners has swelled in recent weeks, with hundreds of cities hosting events, among them Atlanta, where eight diverse shuls will set aside any differences and join together for a “unity Kiddush”; Boca Raton, where open-invitation Shabbat meals will be held in multiple apartment blocks; and San Diego, where innovative events including a Shabbat shuk and a Shabbat meditation workshop are expected to reach thousands of Jews across the political and religious spectrum.
Elsewhere, a community-wide Friday night dinner in Tokyo will be dedicating proceeds towards Israel, and, perhaps most remarkably, in Guadeloupe, an island territory in the Caribbean, the entire community has pledged to keep Shabbat in solidarity with Israel.