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Can the World’s Jews Observe Shabbat Together?

South Africa’s chief rabbi launches global ‘Shabbos Project’ to find out

by
Yair Rosenberg
March 21, 2014
A billboard in South Africa advertising the 2013 Shabbos Project. (YouTube)

A billboard in South Africa advertising the 2013 Shabbos Project. (YouTube)

Can the world’s Jewish community keep one Shabbat together? South African Jewry and their Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein want to find out. This week, they launched “The Shabbos Project,” which aims to brings Jews of all backgrounds and beliefs together for one day of rest across the globe.

The initiative is based on the wildly successful local version of program, which galvanized the South African Jewish community in 2013, when the majority of the area’s Jews—religious and not—came together to mark the day from the eve of October 11 through the 12th. The campaign was the brainchild of South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein and his wife Gina, who placed billboards advertising it and produced educational materials for the uninitiated. It soon took on a life of its own and went viral on social media.

The result: communal shabbat meals, services, and events attended by thousands of Jews from all walks of life, many of whom would never have met otherwise–in Rabbi Goldstein’s words, “a Jewish unity project.”

Now, the goal is to scale it up.

This week, Goldstein got the ball rolling early on taking the initiative international. The chosen Shabbat will be October 24-25, 2014, but the program’s redesigned web site with an eight-point manifesto, testimonials, a toolkit, and a “Shabbos 101” guide has already launched. The centerpiece of the roll-out is a promotional video, touting the success of last year’s program, and the potential of this one.

“It’s for every single person,” says Goldstein, “it doesn’t matter what denomination you come from, and whether a person’s affiliated, and who they’re affiliated to–or not affiliated. Shabbos belongs to the entire Jewish people.”

Interested readers can learn more at theshabbosproject.org.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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