In a world transformed by the coronavirus pandemic, the seventh annual international Shabbat Project is organizing virtual pre-Shabbat events and providing educational materials for an intimate home-based Shabbat experience in more than 1,600 cities and 106 countries from Nov. 6-7.

Since 2013, the annual event has brought together Jews of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities to keep one Shabbat together. This year, given the circumstances, it has reinvented itself, emphasizing the call to “Bring Shabbat Home.”

The project has created an array of educational resources that enhance the Shabbat-at-home experience, including a seven-step guide to observing Shabbat, as well as a compendium of enriching and inspiring ideas to read and share around the Shabbat table. Meanwhile, pre-Shabbat events around the world will include virtual challah bakes, online classes about Shabbat, cooking webcasts, global sing-a-thons and virtual synagogue tours.

Despite the necessity for partners and organizers worldwide to pivot towards online events and away from the large, citywide spectacles that have characterized the project over the years, the global initiative aims to make an impact this year through its timely objective: to restore some stability to our lives in a volatile and uncertain world.

“We have lived through times of chaos and confusion. But our homes have always been our havens. And Shabbat can ensure they remain so—places of stability and security, kindness and connection, warmth and love,” said the Shabbat Project’s founder and director, South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. “In a world turned upside-down, Shabbat can keep us the right way up.”

Amid the pandemic’s challenges, Goldstein said the response has exceeded expectations.

“Thousands of partners have again stepped forward, eager to bring the Shabbat experience to their communities,” he said. “New, innovative events and initiatives have begun to take shape. New participants are gearing up to experience a full Shabbat for the first time in their lives.”

Fresh-baked challah for Shabbat. Credit: Pixabay.

‘Front-row access to Jewish life all over the globe’

One of the silver linings of this year’s exclusively online array of events is that geographical barriers have dissolved. Seed UK will broadcast an extraordinary 24-hour challah bake featuring 19 different live events from cities such as Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Sydney, Moscow, Toronto and New York. A pre-Shabbat event in Arizona featuring Latino pop singer Miriam Sandler will include participants from four continents. And in the wake of the Abraham Accords, an event hosted in Israel will include the Jewish communities of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait and Oman.

In Argentina, a challah bake will unite Jewish communities in 32 cities across the country for the first time. And Long Island’s “Cook and Connect” event, featuring young cooking sensation and “Chopped!” winner Rachel Goldzwal, will bring together teenagers from around the world to share traditional Shabbat dishes and cultural cuisines.

Elsewhere, a group of Israeli volunteers will be cooking and delivering all four Shabbat meals to Magen David Adom first responders in Ra’anana, Herzliya and Kfar Saba. A website in Denver is offering Shabbat meals, classes and “survival kits” on demand. And an all-day “women’s day” event hosted in Netanya will feature international singers, filmmakers and celebrity chefs.

“This is front-row access to Jewish life all over the globe,” says Goldstein. “You could attend a challah bake in Singapore, sit in on a Shabbat cooking class in Panama, enjoy Kabbalat Shabbat at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and end off with Havdalah in Colombia. It’s an opportunity to experience different Jewish cultures and Shabbat traditions from the comfort of your home.”

In the movement’s founding country, the Shabbat Project’s head office in Johannesburg will distribute 7,500 bags filled with Shabbat-themed goodies to the South African Jewish community. In Boulogne, acclaimed Jewish historian Emmanuel Attyasse is leading a virtual tour of old Jewish France. And in Karnei Shomron, members of the religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva and largely secular Tzofim youth movements will be working together to deliver food parcels and flowers to residents most affected by the coronavirus.

The latter is an offshoot of “Flowers for Shabbat,” a new initiative that involves people across the world sending flowers and a personal message to a list of Israel-based recipient groups. Recipients include COVID-19 patients, doctors, frontline health-care workers, volunteer first responders, lone soldiers, elderly people who are isolated during the pandemic and others. At the time of writing, around 40,000 had been ordered. The flowers will be delivered on Friday, Nov. 6, just in time for Shabbat.

For more information, visit: www.theshabbosproject.org.

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