Shabbos Project 2015 Comes to Los Angeles
On the Shabbos of the 23th/24th October 2015, Jewish people will gather once again in hundreds of cities around the world for the international Shabbos Project. The concept is simple: Jews of all walks of life, from across the spectrum. Religious, secular and traditional, young and old, from all corners of the globe, will be uniting to experience Shabbos together.
The Shabbos Project is a global, grassroots movement that brings Jews from across the world together to keep one full halachic Shabbos. The initiative was introduced in South Africa in 2013 to dramatic effect. Around 75 percent of the country’s 75 000 Jews kept Shabbos in full, many for the first time, and people of diverse backgrounds and persuasions were brought together in ways not seen before.
In 2014, the idea of an international Shabbos Project was born, “One Shabbos celebrated – and kept in full – across the Jewish world, by the entire Jewish people, at the same time”. The global event met with an astonishing response. An estimated one million Jews in 460 cities and 64 countries around the world took part – not just in unique Shabbos programs, but in city-wide pre-Shabbos Challah Bakes and post-Shabbos Havdallah Concerts. An untold number observed Shabbos in full for the first time in their lives.
Many of today’s leading behavioral scientists, neurologists, psychologists and social commentators point to a “crisis of attention” in the digital age – a world that has become a constant feed of information and entertainment, a procession of beeps and pings and pop-ups doing battle for our attention. “A world in which we are so besieged by distractions,” said Rabbi Goldstein of South Africa, “that we’ve forgotten how to live.” Innumerable studies show serious harm being done to relationships, social skills, concentration levels, physical memory, physical wellbeing, even our ability to feel. And almost invariably, the solutions put forward – more face-to-face time, digital detox, slowing down, taking a nap, going for a walk, deep breathing, self-reflection, distraction-free meals around the table – point in the direction of Shabbat.
“A unique tranquility and intimacy permeates our homes on Shabbos,” explained Rabbi Goldstein. “No one has to answer the phone or rush off. No one is distracted by the screens of information and entertainment that saturate our world. We are left with a remarkable, uninterrupted haven of love and connection, which allows us to appreciate and focus on what we have in our lives.”
Shabbos holds a special power and resonance in today’s world. “It enables us to momentarily set aside the distractions, demands and pressures of daily life – offering us the time and space to renew our inner selves, and to revisit and reinvigorate our most important relationships.
Rabbi Goldstein noted that “Shabbos can hold us together in a society where everything seems to be pulling us apart.” Importantly, the Shabbos Project is not merely about performing a symbolic gesture to acknowledge Shabbos – it involves keeping the holiday in full. For Goldstein, authenticity is everything.
“This approach is predicated on the idea that the real energy of Shabbos – its transformative power – is wholly dependent on immersing oneself in the full Shabbos experience.”
The tagline of the Shabbos Project is “Keeping it together.” This is an allusion to the unique restorative powers, the opportunity for deep physical, emotional and spiritual rejuvenation, which the full Shabbos experience affords. This is especially relevant in a modern world in which people are beset with constant noise and distraction; a world where what is truly important often takes a backseat.
“’Keeping it together’ means keeping our lives together,” Goldstein explains. “Of course, there is good food, sound sleep and deep relaxation to look forward to on Shabbos, but there’s more. Shabbos restores us, not just in a physical sense, but emotionally and spiritually as well, so that we emerge on Saturday night as new human beings, ready to face the week with all of its attendant challenges and opportunities.”
“Keeping It Together” also refers to the sense of unity and togetherness generated in literally keeping Shabbos together – as one Jewish people, and as individuals, families and communities all over the world, all at the same time.
“One of the unique aspects of the Shabbos Project is that all factional identities – all denominations, affiliations, ideologies, and political differences – are put aside,” says Goldstein. “This is real Jewish unity – built from the ground up. ”Indeed, while the Shabbos Project is coordinated and managed through formal communal organizations and partners, the initiative is essentially a grassroots social movement, driven by the people for the people”.
The Los Angeles Shabbos Project is part of the global, grassroots movement that began in South Africa in 2013. Last year a few volunteers came together and decided to try and create the Shabbos Project in Los Angeles. With a lot of mesiras nefesh and help from several rabbonim, there was an amazing Challah Bake which had over 500 women in attendance at Yeshiva Aahron Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu day school as well as several other community events in just a few short weeks. MyAish hosted Shabbos dinner and lunch at Nessah Synagogue and drew a crowd of over 1,000 people to each meal.
The success of the events was inspiring and the feedback from everyone who attended was positive. There were many people who had never experienced the beauty of Shabbos before, and they also loved it!
In April of 2015, Beth Leventhal, Tali Merewitz, and Leanne Praw began planning and preparing for the Shabbos Project Los Angeles 2015. Along with a dedicated committee of community volunteers from all over the city, they have been gearing up to make this year bigger and better. Los Angeles has a very unique community and they are hoping to unite the community in a new way. Many of the city’s shuls and schools are participating and will be helping to promote and publicize the Shabbos Project, encouraging Jews of all stripes to join in and be a part of the event.
The weekend will kick off on Thursday, October 22nd with the Los Angeles Great Big Challah Bake. It promises to be an awe inspiring evening with the theme, One Night, One Prayer, One Voice. We hope to unite all the women and girls who attend with a full program showcasing the art of challah making and the spiritual aspects. There is limited space available so we strongly encourage everyone to pre-register at http://thegreatchallabake2015.eventbrite.com.
There are several other large community events being planned for the Shabbos Project weekend. MyAish, JUN and Josh Golcheh are organizing a Friday night block party called Shabbat Project 3000, and will be closing down Pico Blvd between Cardiff and Rexford to host approximately 3,000 people for Shabbos dinner. This would be the largest gathering of Jewish people for an event like this in Los Angeles history! They invite all shuls in the area to participate in uniting the community for an amazing experience. Tickets for this event are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/shabbat-project-3000-tickets-18593075389.
In addition there will be other community events from Shabbos Oneg programs to Shalosh Seudas. For more information on the events please go to the Los Angeles regional page on the official Shabbos Project website at www.theshabbosproject.org/en/Los-Angeles.
If anyone is interested in being a sponsor or in organizing events such as a block party or meals please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can Keep it Together.