A million smiles from Chief Rabbi Goldstein

  • Shabbos 14 Chief HOME
The Shabbos Project took place in 461 cities in 64 countries and 9 languages around the world last weekend. And, while nobody expected anything but success, “Not even the most optimistic predictions among all of us working on the Project came close to what eventually took place!” says Rabbi Goldstein, who attributes it's success to SA Jewry. Awareness of the Project probably touched at least 25% of world Jewry. Read the full post-event story, with links to all the information and videos….
by ANT KATZ | Oct 28, 2014

“It is so exciting what has taken place” -Chief Rabbi

In eight languages (or nine if you count Ukrainian), in 64 countries and 461 cities around the world – last Shabbos was one the modern Jewish world will never forget.

“I am an optimist by nature”, says Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein talking to Jewish Report about the Shabbos Project on Monday. But, he says, “Not even the most optimistic predictions among all of us working on the Project came close to what eventually took place!”

Shabbos Project 2014 logoAt the local level, says Rabbi Goldstein, the team had hoped for the same level of success as last year. “We couldn’t have expected that we could have done better”, he says. But they did – the SA level of participation and response was even greater, he says, clearly elated.

The sheer number of participants at shuls and communal dinners, and the stories he has since heard from people about what it had meant to them have overwhelmed him. I am feeling very grateful and appreciative”, he says.

And at the International level, says Rabbi Goldstein, “The response has been astounding, both in how far and how wide it has gone. Stories are coming in from all parts of the globe”, says Goldstein, “and what is astonishing is not only the depth but the breadth of participation that we managed to achieve”.

SA Jewry set it up last year

The Chief Rabbi won’t take the credit, however. He says a large team had worked to make the Shabbos Project the global success it had been. “It really is something astonishing”, he concedes, “but it was the South African Jewish community’s response last year that set up the global spread of (The Shabbos Project) for this year”, he says.

International iShabbos Project around the worldnquiries started flowing into his office when other Jewish communities read about how SA Jewry had embraced the Project in 2013.


The world joined in and kept it together for a day

Benita Kursan of Mama Creative is currently Coordinating the information from 460 partner cities, so final numbers are hard to come by.

But, says Kursan, the six most active participants, not in order, were Johannesburg, Toronto, Melbourne, Miami, Buenos Ares and Israel which celebrated as a country, rather than as individual cities.

Some of the numbers that have come in are incredible.

“All of these communities on the ground, around the world, did it themselves”, says Rabbi Goldstein. “We gave them the methodology. We expanded our Guidebook and Toolkit Book into eight languages and we produced all of the marketing material here”, he explains.

Shabbos Project around the world - 1
The world joined in and kept it together for a day

The languages were English, French, Hebrew Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Italian and German. The material was produced in SA and then sent to the various countries to be produced, printed and distributed.

Last minute changes

“A few days before Shabbos, Ukraine wanted to join in”, says the Chief Rabbi. All the SA team could do at that stage was to send Ukrainian Jewry the Russian material as open files so they could adapt them.” Similarly, says Rabbi Goldstein, French Jewry wanted to change some of the translations so they, too, were sent the open files and adapted them to suit. “We worked closely with the Chief Rabbi of France”, says the Chief Rabbi.

Whatever the numbers turn out to be, they were staggering: For the Challah Bake in South America, for example, Buenos Ares had 4,000 ladies attending and Chile had over I,000. IN North America, stats that have come in show that Miami led the pack (so far) with 4,900 participants; 2,500 Toronto ladies turned up, Baltimore had 1200 and Manhattan 500.

Shabbos 14 Chief and LawrenceALL SMILES: Mama’s Lawrence Horwitz (left) and the Chief Rabbi couldn’t help smiling at the success of the Johannesburg outdoor Challah Bake, despite the downpour

Israel celebrated differently and each community held their own challah bake events by suburb. Beit Shemesh is the top number in so far at 600 ladies.

In Europe Challah Bakes took place in Basel, Switzerland; in several places in the Netherlands where Antwerp drew 550 bakers alone. Moscow had 200 and Pinsk in Belarus saw 100 turning out.

The only figures in from Asia at this stage are the 190 who baked in Hong Kong.

Australia embraced The Shabbos Project in every which way and the Challah Baking events drew 2,500 in Melbourne, 2,400 in Sydney and a smaller number in Perth.

South Africa was hard for organisers to count. The Cape Town Challah Bake attracted 1,200 – but with the Johannesburg event being interrupted by a cloudburst, it was difficult for organisers to count the bakers. In fact, estimates range from a minimum of 3,000 up to 5,000.

Many of the participating centres did not have a Challah Bake or Havdallah Concert and the total number of participants in all the events is difficult to call.

The South African website, which was shared by many countries, has over 300,000 people officially signed-up. However some countries managed their own sites and many who participated didn’t sign up officially (including the writer).

The numbers are therefore speculative and the organisers would like to err on the side of caution.


But print and distribute they did

Sydney, says the Chief Rabbi, did a 10,000 print run of the booklets, for example. Anecdotes and stories are coming in by the bucket-full. “We are busy collating the stories right across the world” says Goldstein.

The Israeli press reported that more than one million Jews participated. This figure, however, may be conservative. If one takes into account the very high levels of involvement in Israel itself and the fact that many of the most active partner-cities also boast among the highest Jewish populations globally.

Miami, for example, has a Jewish population of 535,000; London, 200,000; Buenos Aires and Toronto each have Jewish populations of 250,000. Yasher Koach to Rabbi Goldstein, his local team, overseas partners and all of SA Jewry.


The driving force behind The Shabbos Project, says the Chief Rabbi, is threefold:

  1. The spiritual connection between the Jewish people and Shabbat;
  2. The fact that Shabbat has such a compelling message for modern life; and
  3. The deep need there is for true Jewish unity, “Not like that which has been forced on us by war and hatred” says Rabbi Goldstein, “The Shabbos Project has allowed us to share voluntarily rather than having something imposed on us!”

It wasn’t planned to go global

At the end of The Shabbos Project last year, says Rabbi Goldstein, there was no plan to expand. “But we got such a great response after Jews around the world read about the response of SA Jewry” he says, that the global initiative “sprung up in seven or eight months. Very powerful forces are at play here” he told Jewish Report.

Shabbos Challah kidRabbi Warren Goldstein and his team were somewhat surprised how well the Project worked in Israel. The team had been confounded by conventional wisdom which, they believed, indicated that this would not be a big event there.

When Rabbi Goldstein went to Israel to talk about the subject at the beginning of last week, he was surprised to see the Shabbos Project advertised on busses (there were 300 of them bedecked in advertising for The Shabbos Project), signboards, in fact everywhere. He found he got an “enormously warm response” wherever he went and that their three-week-old Facebook page already had over 30,000 likes. The media coverage in Israel was fantastic and the Shabbos Project seems to have sparked interest in the newsrooms of every [print and digital title in the country.

Read all about Shabbos Project on SAJR

The world joined in and kept it together for a day

The world joined in and kept it together for a day

1 Comment

  1. 1 Marion Urfig 30 Oct
    a million smiles from him!!!!!
    a million and more smiles, TO him!
    what Chief Rabbi has achieved with the Shabbos Project, single handed is nothing short of an amazing and special miracle. This united Jews, worldwide, with such love and "togetherness" and enjoyment, that words cant describe. May this continue on an annual basis, and I have no doubt, will be shared and enjoyed again and again and again! Thank you Rabbi for this special mitzvah that you have done.very very very warm and sincere wishes for all good things to come.


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