This year’s fourth international Shabbos Project reached 1 416 cities and 97 countries around the world – up from 1 152 cities and 95 countries in 2016. More than one million people took part in celebrations on and around the Shabbos of 27 and 28 October, with events attracting record numbers of participants in many locations.
In the US alone – from Teaneck to Thompsonville, Miami to Mableton, Baltimore to Bridgeport – there were a total of 586 participating cities, with an estimated 20 000 people taking part in locations such as LA and San Diego.
In Israel, where President Reuven Rivlin officially endorsed the project – joining public figures as varied as Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Ron Huldai, Yair Lapid, Aviv Alush, Natan Sharansky and Amir Ohana – there were 307 participating cities (including kibbutzim and moshavim/yishuvim) and 331 main events taking place across the country, not including countless Shabbat meals and Kiddush gatherings in streets, parks and apartment buildings.
Europe (48 participating cities in France, 31 in Russia and around 100 000 people taking part in the UK, where Prime Minister Theresa May commended the project); Latin America (138 cities); and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne each had more than 10 000 participants) all had record numbers celebrating this year’s Shabbos Project, while countries such as Mozambique, Cyprus, Paraguay and Venezuela hosted Shabbos Project festivities for the first time.
For the second year running, there were over 500 participating cities in the US. San Diego was one of the North American hubs. Among scores of events involving thousands of participants was perhaps the first ever joint-country enterprise – a Challah Bake on the Mexican border involving the communities of South County (San Diego) and Tijuana (Mexico). The two headline events – a coastal Challah Bake and a Havdallah Concert featuring the Moshav Band drew 2 000 people, while hundreds were placed with hosts for Shabbat meals.
In Arizona, as many as 900 women who’ve attended the region’s Challah Bake in recent years were placed with hosts for Shabbat meals. Arizona also introduced the “Shabbat Shuk” concept involving various experiential and interactive Shabbat-related activities to support this year’s Challah Bake.
In Los Angeles, a dinner on Pico Boulevard at which organisers expected more than 5 000 people (making it perhaps the biggest Shabbat dinner in history) was cancelled by city officials following the shooting attack in Nevada last month. There were plenty of other events taking place, however, including 10 Challah Bakes happening across the city. An estimated 20 000 people participated in events across the city.
Chicago emulated Baltimore’s “Shabbat through the Senses” initiative – holding pre-event workshops at four early childhood centres across the city, bringing kids of all backgrounds together to make Havdallah spice-boxes, decorative Shabbat candlesticks, tie-dye challah covers and other Shabbat items. There were Shabbat events throughout city, including four regional Challah Bakes; coordinated Shabbat dinners on campus at the University of Illinois; various pre-selected “Shabbat Ambassadors” hosting Friday night dinners; and a Havdallah Concert for teens. The project reached approximately 10 000 Chicago Jews.
And South Florida’s Jewish residents sought solace from the recent storm that lashed the region – by baking. A remarkable 17 different Challah Bakes took place across the State of Florida, involving thousands of women.
The 2017 Shabbos Project was the biggest yet for Israel.
In Tel Aviv, partners “White City Shabbat” again helped drive a number of marquis events, including a Shabbat dinner at Tel Aviv’s Namal Port for around 1 000 Israelis and new olim. And on a nearby rooftop overlooking the city, Inspire Tel Aviv (ITV) hosted a dinner where they served foods and celebrated cultures from around the world. ITV also hosted a cholent-and-beer Shabbat lunch, a walking tour of “Tel Aviv's hidden history”, a third meal, and a musical Havdallah.
In Kochav Yair, central Israel, Seudah Shlishit was laid out on 25 streets as neighbours of all levels of observance got to know each other better, casting aside preconceived ideas and finding common ground around a shared Shabbat experience.
Up north in Karmiel, more than 500 attended a Shabbat dinner, with a a number of activities and events continuing over the course of the Shabbat. In Zichron Yaavov, meanwhile, in partnership with the mayor’s office, events included a pre-event wine evening, citywide Challah Bake and Havdallah Concert, Shabbat activities and workshops in schools, and a Friday night dinner for the city’s teenageers.
In the south, numerous moshavim and yishuvim joined together within their regions to participate in The Shabbos Project. French-speaking olim coordinated a Shabbaton in Ein Gedi, with buses from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem bringing more than 100 people to the event. And in Mitzpe Ramon, deep in the Negev desert, Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli, a community-based organisation for young Russian olim, ran a full programme, including a Challah Bake, community Kiddush and Havdallah Concert.
In London, underground trains and tube stations were festooned with posters and billboards promoting The Shabbos Project. Among hundreds of events taking place across the capital, one of the biggest was a Challah Bake at the cavernous Allianz Stadium, with more than 2 000 people in attendance. The event was organised by Jewish educational outfit, Seed, with support from Sephardic organisation, Chazak.
In France, there were a total of 44 participating cities. Nice, where participation was up by 30% on last year, was among the most active. The city hosted a Friday night dinner for more than 500 people (sold out in weeks) at the glitzy Palais de la Méditerranée, as well as 700 people at a Havdallah Concert featuring Israeli singer, Idan Amedi, and 400 at a Challah Bake, both events held at the Acropolis Palace.
In Zurich, Friday night "hot spots" were created, with people identified across the city hosting big dinners in their homes. On Shabbat day, three of the main synagogues joined together for a celebratory Kiddush-Bracha. Germany, meanwhile, had 18 participating cities, with Berlin at the centre.
In Italy, Rome drove community-wide involvement via the “Invite your neighbours” initiative that saw friends and “strangers” gathering together in homes across the city for Shabbat meals. The capital city was joined by Naples, Milan, Cosenza, Cuneo and Torino, who all ran headline events.
East European-based youth movement EnerJew coordinated a remarkable Shabbaton that brought Jewish teenagers together to celebrate Shabbat in 40 cities in the former Soviet Union. Russia had a total of 31 participating cities. Pinsk, Bucharest and Budapest were among scores of Eastern European cities running full Shabbat programmes, including Warsaw, which had a Friday night meal of South African delicacies, with the South African ambassador in attendance.
In South Africa, Stellenbosch, Ceres, Vanderbijl Park and Brakpan participated for the first time. In Cape Town and Johannesburg, new initiatives included the Dark Tisch, taking place in venues across the two cities. Mass Challah Bakes and music concerts again kick-started the event. Thousands of ‘Light Boxes’ – with Shabbos and Havdallah Candles and accessories as well as lighting instructions – were distributed, as were copies of a specially created children’s book about a little girl and her father walking to shul on Shabbos, and including a rich exploration of Shabbat itself.
Elsewhere in Africa, Maputo emerged as a highly enthusiastic partner, while events also took place in Lome (Togo), Carthage (Tunisia) and Mbale. And in Marrakesh, Morocco, a tour group of 30 people from around the world opted to keep a full Shabbos together.
In Asia, Singapore made up for missing out last year with a number of exciting initiatives. Other participating cities included Hong Kong, Beijing, Jakarta, and Dalat (Vietnam), where Huan Duy hosted a kosher commemorative Friday night dinner at his backpacker’s lodge.
Latin America was once again a hotbed of activity, with 88 participating cities, most of them in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
Buenos Aires drew 5 500 women to a challah-baking event run in conjunction with the local government. The city then geared up for mass Shabbat celebrations bolstered by two spin-off initiatives that have taken hold in the aftermath of last year’s Shabbos Project and have brought the Shabbos experience to hundreds of families on a weekly basis.
In Rio de Janeiro, Jews in the neighborhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema, Botafogo and Leblon participated in a veritable carnival of Shabbos Project events. Elsewhere in Brazil, Recife’s famous Kahal Zur Israel shul – erected in 1636, the oldest synagogue in the Americas – creaked open its doors to host a series of events.
Costa Rica held the world’s first glow-in-the-dark Challah Bake. The San Jose arena was bathed in darkness throughout the event, punctuated only by phosphorescent table decorations, creating a suitably otherworldly atmosphere for this mysterious, sacred Jewish rite.
And Panama City hosted a series of unity events – including a Challah Bake, Shabbat dinner and Havdallah Concert – bringing together all the various Jewish communities for the first time. Organisers also used these events to integrate the many new Jewish families who have arrived in Panama from Venezuela as a result of the latter’s socio-political issues.
Down under, Melbourne and Sydney again led the charge. The latter was one of the first cities to usher in Shabbos at an open-air musical Kabbalat Shabbat overlooking the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. The pre-sunset extravaganza – a follow-up to last year’s Bondi Beach service – was livestreamed on Facebook with a 360-degree camera, and drew more than 2 500 people. A family picnic under the stars followed. There were also scores of grassroots events being planned by the different organisations, including Challah Bakes, Havdallah Concerts, virtual cook-offs and cooking demonstrations, educational series within the schools, as well as adult educational lectures and events.