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Sixth Shabbos Project to reach more than 1 400 cities

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SIMON APFEL

In San Diego, more than a thousand Shabbat meals have been arranged at private homes across the county, with people hosting neighbours, friends, colleagues, even perfect strangers. They’re calling it “radical hospitality”.

In New York, Long Islanders will enjoy the spectacle of Kabbalat Shabbat (receiving shabbat) services and singing in the streets, followed by a “Dark Tisch”, a Friday night meditative gathering with singing and snacks, held in near-complete darkness.

While in Spring Valley, a diverse group of women, many new to the Shabbat experience, are embarking on a weekend of “meditation, prayer, Torah teachings, massage, and movement” led by qualified yoga instructor, Bracha Meshchaninov.

Los Angeles is one of ten cities across North America decking out their challah bakes in striking pink decorations, and offering screening and testing services to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

And in Detroit, there is an unlikely partnership between the BBYO (Bnei Brith Youth Organisation), a pluralistic Jewish teen movement, and Aish HaTorah, for a full 25-hour Shabbaton.

These are just a few of the thousands of initiatives being rolled out around the globe as part of this week’s sixth international Shabbos Project.

“Our objective this year, as in previous years, is simply to enable as many people as possible to keep one Shabbat together,” says South African Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, the founder and Director of the Shabbos Project.

“Ultimately, through mass participation in authentic Shabbat experiences, we hope to shift the cultural perception of Shabbat, and forge unity among all Jews, regardless of background.”

In Israel, where the Shabbos Project is being endorsed by members of the Knesset, including the Minister of the Diaspora, Naftali Bennet, Voice of Israel presenter Menachem Toker has extended a live-on-air invitation to fellow national TV and radio host, Didi Harari, to join him at his house for Shabbat.

More than a thousand Tel Avivians are sitting down to a Friday night dinner in a shipping hangar at Namal port, while Jerusalem will host a city-wide seudah shlishit (third meal of Shabbat) at a bar adjoining the Machane Yehuda shuk, and a Batmitzvah girl has extended an open invitation to the entire city.

Meanwhile, Kochav Yair in central Israel is running a Shabbat-themed, two-day treasure hunt for the town’s kids, followed by a Friday night kiddush laid out on 30 neighbourhood streets. Givat Shmuel is hosting the biggest seudah shlishit in the country, with more than 500 people expected to attend.

The action is not limited to the United States and Israel.

In Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, the owner of a local backpacker’s lodge is offering free accommodation and meals to anyone who keeps Shabbat, while down south, in Bariloche, a local teacher is organising a Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat dinner for the entire community.

More than 30 apartment buildings across Santiago, Chile, will be hosting Friday night dinners in the lobby to help neighbours get to know each other.

And in Cancun, Mexico, organisers have booked a hotel near the city’s synagogue, so everyone can keep Shabbat.

In Sydney, Australia, thousands are expected at a musical Kabbalat Shabbat on Coogee beach.

A popular cigar lounge in Grenoble, southeastern France, is gearing up for an evening of Shabbat-themed improv theatre.

In Essex, England, 25 families – few with any prior experience – are preparing to keep a full Shabbat together.

And in Florence, Italy, two local professors will be leading an exploration of the city’s Jewish architectural wonders.

In Cape Town, events include guided Shabbat walks, and a student-led Havdallah (end of Shabbat) concert on Camps Bay beach, with supper, a celebrity DJ, and fire poi (dancing), while their fellow high schoolers in Johannesburg are running a street Havdallah concert in Glenhazel.

Both are among hundreds of cities worldwide taking part in the Let’s Chalk Shabbat initiative, with Shabbat candle-lighting times drawn in neon chalk all over inner-city pavements.

Meanwhile, a group of intrepid mountaineers summiting Kilimanjaro are pausing for 25 hours to keep Shabbat 4 000ft (1 219m) above sea level.

And Zuriel Solangi, a lone Jew in Larkana, Pakistan, will join compatriot Faisel Benkhald, a lone Jew in Karachi, in keeping Shabbat with the rest of the Jewish world.

Naypyidaw (Myanmar) is participating for the first time, as is San Luis, Argentina; Hobart, Tasmania; Accra, Ghana; and Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island.

They will join about 300 cities and neighbourhoods in Israel, more than 500 cities in the US, and a combined one million Jews in more than a thousand cities in 98 countries around the world.

Stop doing. Start being.

The campaign theme for the 2018 Shabbos Project is “Stop doing. Start being”. This is a reference to the unique opportunity that Shabbat affords people to lay down the demands, distractions, and devices that dominate modern life, and devote one day to the truly important things that might otherwise get lost in the maelstrom.

“The unfortunate reality,” says Goldstein, “is that in our modern age, as a result of the lives we live and lifestyle choices we make, we end up not having the time or the emotional space to devote attention to the things that really matter – personal growth, our families and relationships, our spiritual well-being. Shabbat gives us that time and that space, and the results of that can be truly transformative.”

He describes Shabbat as “an island in time”.

“Crucially, it is the things we cannot do on Shabbat which free us up to do the things we can. Because of the so-called ‘restrictions’ of the day, we actually get a chance to re-engage as families, and revisit and reinvigorate our most important relationships.”

For the past five years, says Goldstein, stories have poured in of people transforming their lives as a result.

“There are many families and individuals that have so fallen in love with Shabbat – with the stillness, the relaxation, the sense of being instead of doing, the sense of space and time it affords – that they’ve incorporated it into their lives on a weekly basis. It has been a privilege to see it unfold; to witness the magic of Shabbat take hold in cities across the world.”

For Goldstein, the Shabbos Project is about more than unity and celebration. Yet the appeal, for many, lies in its pure simplicity.

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