This Saturday the world-wide Shabbat Project will take off once again, Jews all over the world, both religious and secular will keep Shabbat and participate in a variety of special events.
The project was initiated two years ago, by the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein. In its first year, the project took place in South Africa alone, the campaign attracted secular Jews to keep Shabbat for the first time according to Jewish law, and attend Shabbat services. The positive feedback and enthusiasm brought Rabbi Goldstein to the conclusion that the project has the potential to expand globally. Last year, the Shabbat project took place throughout the world. One million Jews from 465 cities and 64 countries participated in the unique Shabbat programs, baking challot before Shabbat, and the concerts after Havdalah. Many of them observed Shabbat for the first time.
The initiators of the project received plenty of exciting stories of Jews who participated in the project: The story of Jewish girls from a private Christian school in the United States who participated in their first Jewish experience when they joined the baking-challot event. As well as a Jewish family from Perth, Australia, who hosted the Friday night meal not only to 25 non-Orthodox friends of their younger son, but also to some secular Israeli soldiers, a convert from Denmark, and three Australian Jewish backpackers who returned from a tedious trek. In the streets of Johannesburg a Shabbat table half a kilometer long was set for the guests, and several dozen Jews gathered – perhaps the first time – to observe Shabbat in Angola, Africa.
This year the Shabbat Project initiators are hoping to achieve Shabbat observance in Israel from Metulah to Eilat.
During his visit to the country last summer, Rabbi Goldstein has created relationships with many local authorities who have promised to join the project. The mayors of Ashkelon, Ariel, Safed, Netanya and Sderot offered support in the form of street signs, advertising, public relations, and the use of public buildings. In Several cities the Mayor will host Shabbat guests at his private home. Even the Municipalities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv promised to participate this coming Shabbat. Tel Aviv is planning to set a huge Shabbat table through the streets of the city, where thousands of Israelis will participate.
The Shabbat Project is investing its efforts not only in big cities but also in hundreds of smaller communities. All types of volunteer organizations are taking part in the preparations: The Tzofim Youth Movement, for example, whose members are mostly secular, plans to send 80,000 young men and women to organize Shabbat meals in neighborhoods across the country. Even the Torah Culture Department at the Education Ministry, the Jewish Agency, and various Kiruv organizations are expected to join the efforts and make sure that as many Israelis as possible have a unique and uplifting Shabbat experience by observing Shabbat according to Jewish law.