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Shabbat in the community

מאת Ilana Austin ‎
Long Beach, United States

I have been running a Shabbos Project Friday night dinner through the Young Israel of Long Beach since Shabbos Project first came to the US. Penina Gross and I first approached Rabbi Chaim Wakslak z”l about bringing Shabbos Project into the community and he agreed wholeheartedly. We had a sponsor that year who paid for the dinner of any person who reserved for themselves and an unaffiliated person. Needless to say, we filled all the seats quickly. Although the dinner was hosted by the Young Israel of Long Beach, it was a community event and all the Rabbis of the community participated, each taking a different part of the event (kiddush, motzei, zemirot, dvar torah, benching). Each year, the Rabbi called me and asked me to run the community-wide dinner and each year I did it. Our community has some “politics”, so the fact that we all came together for a Shabbos was amazing. Last year, we lost our beloved Rav a few weeks before COVID began. As a community, we were reeling. When Shabbos Project came around, I could almost hear the Rabbi in my head asking me what I was going to do. With the help of Shabbos Project, we created a Cooking With zoom series, taking us into each Rebbetzin’s home and having her show us a special Shabbos recipe. It went over so well. But, this year, I just could not bring myself to do it. Your email with the grant offering came around and I sent it to my son at Cornell, saying maybe he wanted to do something. He was awarded a grant. I was so proud of him and I justified it as he was carrying on the Rabbi’s legacy. But then another email came saying, there were still $250 grants left. How could I let the Rabbi z”l down. I had to do something for Shabbos Project. So, I did. But, it takes a village. One Shabbos, I mentioned to Rebbetzin Miriam Kamravapour of the Sephardic Congregation of Long Beach that we were doing a mother daughter seuda shlishit for Shabbos Project. I further mentioned that the reason I was doing this was that the community was very good at running things for boys, but there’s never anything for girls (in addition to my son, I also have 2 girls). Miriam reached out to me a few days later saying she heard about a program called BNOS that she thinks would be great for our community. She contacted the program, got all the information, spoke with a few mothers and got some of the girls together to learn the theme song which they performed at the Shabbos Project seuda shlishit rolling out the program to the community. When I was looking for a giveaway, I found the Sharsheret pink Havdalah candles. Pink Havdalah candles were a perfect give away for this mother-daughter event. I contacted Sharsheret and it turns out this is National Breast Cancer Month, they sent me materials to include in our giveaways and we helped promote this very important topic. This year’s Shabbos project was our best ever, we had well over 60 people, there were people standing against the walls. The Rabbi z"l would have been so happy to see our success in bringing women together from throughout the community.