They are a pop-cultural phenomenon, the subject of a Toby Keith song, and a staple of campus keg parties across the US. Now, 40,000 of the iconic red plastic Solo cups have been branded with The Shabbat Project logo and website and distributed to Jewish student organisations (fraternities/sororities, Chabad on Campus, Hillel, Jewish Student Unions) throughout Florida.
The initiative is being championed by one Brandon Harris, a junior at the University of Florida (Jewish student pop. 7,000 – one of the largest of any university in the US). His idea is that the cups will become ubiquitous at Jewish student parties and subsequently on social media – igniting interest not only among Florida students, but on campuses across the country.
Harris, who has never before kept Shabbat, recently sent an email to the heads of various national Jewish student organisations, urging them to involve “every Jewish student on every campus in North America” in The Shabbat Project 2016 – “the largest Jewish unity project ever”:
“As a student leader, I would like to instill a sense of pride in the Jewish student body not only at UF but at all college campuses throughout the US,” says Harris. “I would like to give my fellow students the opportunity to feel connected to their heritage and to the greater Jewish community around the world.”
He says the fact that The Shabbat Project is a grassroots social movement makes it an ideal fit for Jewish college students.
“Can you imagine the excitement and sense of pride and unity we could generate among Jewish university students if they all participated in this amazing global Jewish unity initiative?”
Shabbat Project events are being held at University of Florida (Gainesville); University of Central Florida (Oviedo); University of Miami (Coral Gables); and Florida State University (Jacksonville).
Miami’s Shabbat Project organizing committee provided financial grants to the various campuses, as well as Shabbat “how to” guides and other material.
“We’ve worked closely with Jewish fraternities and sororities, Hillels, Jewish Student Unions and Chabad on Campus chapters, who’ve all been integral in organising the events,” says Shabbat Project Miami’s lead coordinator, Alyssa Baumgarten. “And nothing would have materialised without the on-hands involvement of the various Chabad shluchim at these universities who have been simply extraordinary.”
Simon Apfel was born into obscurity, the son of a frozen peas importer and a washing machine. His love of writing has always outshone his ability by a humiliating margin. Nevertheless, he has gone on to achieve some measure of success as a copywriter, journalist and occasional comedy writer. He studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Cape Town, and has written for a variety of local and international publications. For the past five years, he has been chief writer to South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, and has worked extensively on the Shabbat Project, as well as a host of other projects initiated by Chief Rabbi Goldstein.