At The Shabbos Project headquarters, in Johannesburg, a team of designers, copywriters and campaign strategists worked around the clock, custom-designing materials for literally hundreds of cities, putting together global reports and executing print-runs in the tens of thousands.
The work was overseen by three project managers: Rosy Hollander, Siobhan Wilson and Alexa Scola, while creative director, Laurence Horwitz, directed the creation of the material itself. This material included billboards, posters, flyers, social media resources, postcards, aprons and recipe cards, as well as an array of innovative educational materials equipping people to observe Shabbos and host Shabbos events.
Meanwhile, Shira Daskal, who manages the social media desk, fielded messages by the minute. Thanks to her efforts, blogs, news updates and other posts reached a collective 5.2 million people worldwide (more than a third of those in Israel), while The Shabbos Project campaign videos received more than 2 million views, and The Shabbos Project website was visited by more than 300 000 people.
Our international call centre in Tel Aviv, if anything, was even more frenetic. Tanya Harati, originally from South Africa, oversaw a total of eight partner desks assisting more than 8 000 partners (up from around 6 000 in 2016) all over the world across 10 different languages (English, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, German, Ukrainian, Turkish):
- For Israel, there were three different desks covering the north, south and centre of the country, and run by locals Iris, Yochai and Oshrat. Their involvement helped ensure a dramatic increase in activity in all three regions, with a total of 307 participating cities, kibbutzim and moshavim/yishuvim (up from 165 in 2016), and 331 main events taking place across the country (not including Shabbat meals and Kiddush gatherings in streets, parks and apartment buildings).
- Bat Sheva Benchetrit, second in command, and originally from Marseille, managed the French desk, assisting partners in France, Belgium and parts of Africa and Switzerland. France alone had 44 participating cities (up from 19 in 2016).
- The USA desk was managed by Nirelle Chernick, ex-Canadian living in South Africa. Nirelle also worked closely with Nisa Phelps in Baltimore and focused on five key cities this year to build their ground activity. These cities were Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, New York City and the greater Washington DC area. There were a total of 586 participating US cities (up from 543 in 2016).
- Deborah, originally from Mal de Plata, Argentina, and now living in Israel, managed the Latin-American desk, as well as parts of Europe. Deborah speaks Spanish and Portuguese, and in addition to assisting our partners with their events and other requirements, she also helped translate many of our materials for them.
- Olya, originally from Ukraine now living in Israel, has worked with the project since 2015, and managed the Eastern Europe and Asia desk. Olya speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and German and loves researching and finding new communities who have not yet heard of the project.
- Tanya Harati managed the partner team globally and directed the project in Israel. She also assisted all English-speaking partners in Europe, Australia and around the world.
Much of the communication with partners took place via WhatsApp, with 86 different groups on the go. The groups also functioned as a platform for partners to share ideas and resources with each other (as well as videos, pictures and experiences post-event). In addition, the help desk team – on call 24/6 – fielded more than 6 000 calls in 10 languages as well as more than 50 000 emails. The team also disseminated 73 personalised video messages that Shabbos Project founding director, Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, recorded for cities that requested them, and 320 customised flyers, posters, and other marketing material created at HQ.
On Friday, 27 October, as the sun dipped below the horizon, all of this frenzied activity came to an abrupt halt, as the fruits of this wonderfully dedicated group of people’s endeavours came to life. And then, 25 hours later, these offices again whirred into action as the process began of capturing the stories and events, big and small, that took place around the world.