Baltimore Shabbat Project Continues its Mission of Unity

(Photo by David Stuck)

The Baltimore Shabbat Project returns for its fourth year Oct. 22-28, with community challah bakes, a concert and events around Baltimore bringing together thousands to observe Shabbat and celebrate Jewish unity.

Now an international effort, the original Shabbos Project was launched in 2013 by the chief rabbi of South Africa to get Jews to celebrate Shabbat together. By 2016, the Baltimore Shabbat Project estimates that 25,000 area Jews participated, including in The Great Challah Bake and the Community Havdallah Concert as well as other events around the area in community centers, synagogues and homes.

Worldwide, the International Shabbos Project estimates it will reach 1,200 cities in 90 countries this year.

For Baltimore Shabbat Project co-managers Chana Dena Pollak and Esti Ziffer, it’s all about bringing Jews across Baltimore together to celebrate their shared Jewish identity.

“Almost every shul of every denomination has some sort of event in conjunction with the project. So there will be a lot happening throughout the community,” Pollak said. “There are a lot of neighborhoods that are already planning to have some sort of big Oneg or dinner or lunch [as well as] individuals who are hosting in their homes. It’s really a project about Jewish unity, about just being Jewish, identifying as Jewish, celebrating being Jewish.”

This year, the Baltimore Shabbat Project expands, kicking off with the first-time Family Challah Bake for families with young children on Sunday, Oct. 22, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Ticket sales are limited this year to 1,500.

The event is geared to children ages 2 to 10. “There are going to be a lot of interactive child-friendly games [and] mimes and jugglers,” Ziffer said.

The Women’s Challah Bake follows Oct. 25, also at Pimlico Race Course. Doors open for the women’s bake at 5:30 p.m. and the event starts at 6:30. There will be music from DJ Balagan and a free challah tasting with dips. For a VIP wine tasting with Covenant wines, tickets must be purchased in advance, and light dinners will be available for advance purchase. Ticket sales are limited this year to 2,500.

“It’s going to be a very exciting, dynamic, interactive experience,” Ziffer said. “We have terrific audio visuals with screens all over the place; you’re going to feel immersed in the program.”

“Ticket sales are going very quickly,” project co-manager Chana Dena Pollak said, adding people should purchase tickets soon.

Following Shabbat, the Unity Havdallah Concert is set for Saturday, Oct. 28, at 8:30 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with Gad Elbaz and Nissim Black, who are making waves internationally with their popular rap song “Hashem Melech 2.0.”

Pollak and Ziffer said that the duo’s musical message of unity was a perfect fit for the Baltimore Shabbat Project.

“In Israel they’ve been instrumental in performing at places where Orthodox and non-Orthodox have not worked together in the past and have brought them together. This is something we really wanted to focus on as part of the Shabbat Project: Jewish unity and bringing together the entire Jewish community of Baltimore,” Pollak said. “Their concerts are very dynamic and energetic. We want people to walk away from the end of the week of Jewish unity feeling energized and united and really focused on keeping that throughout the year.”

“This is an effort to bring about peace and unity. To really be identifying what we have in common and what brings us together,” Ziffer said. “And that’s what all of the events are about: coming together in peace and love, identifying ourselves as brothers and sisters and seeing our commonalities because we’re all Jewish together.”

For more information on events or to purchase tickets, go to baltimoreshabbat

Events scheduled at other venues and synagogues around the area include:

>> Shabbat Shabbang Experience, Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m., at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. There will be four age-appropriate Shabbat dinners and activities for preschool-aged, elementary-aged and middle-schoolers. There will be a “Pink Shabbat” hosted by Towson University’s AEPhi sorority and Hillel. The public is invited. The evening will end with a song session and Oneg Shabbat (desserts) in the Gordon Center for Performing Arts lobby. For more information or to register, go to

>> The Shabbat Project Dinner and Kabbalat Shabbat on the Rocks, Oct. 27, 5:25 p.m., at Beth Tfiloh Congregation, 3300 Old Court Road, Pikesville, offers services, Shabbat dinner, children’s programs and Kabbalat Shabbat on the Rocks “happy half-hour” for young professionals before services and an after- party following dinner. Shabbat services will be led by a cappella group Rak Shalom, followed by a dinner of international Jewish cuisine. This is the third year Beth Tfiloh Congregation has participated in the Baltimore Shabbat Project, which BT event organizer Holly Venick said brings together their diverse membership ranging from “people who drive to shul and people who walk to shul, women who cover their hair and women who do not, people who come to shul three times per year and others who come daily … but what binds us all together as one is Shabbat.”

Register online at ShabbatProject2017 by Oct. 20. For more information, contact Cherie Brownstein at 410-413-2220 or

>> Shabbat Around the World, Oct. 27, 6 p.m., at Beth Israel Congregation, 3706 Crondall Lane, Owings Mills, offers a Kabbalat Shabbat led by Cantor Jen Rolnick with music from Jewish communities around the world. Dinner to follow. For more information, contact or 410-654-0800. RSVP at

>> The Great Big Challah Bake, Oct. 26, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Kahler Hall, 5440 Tucker Row, Columbia, offers a sisterhood challah bake for women and girls with the Howard County Jewish Federation. For more information or to register, go

The Shabbat Project Manifesto

  1. Together we will keep this Shabbat from sundown to stars out.
  2. We will keep it in its entirety, in all of its detail and splendor, as it has been kept throughout the ages.
  3. Its rhythm will unite us with Jews around the world and throughout the ages.
  4. On this day we will create a warm and loving space, holding our families together.
  5. On this day we will lay down the burdens, distractions, demands and pressures of daily life.
  6. On this day we will renew ourselves, emerging spiritually, emotionally and physically invigorated.
  7. On this day we will own our precious heritage, wearing it as a badge of pride and honor.
  8. Together we embark on this great adventure to rediscover our G-d-given gift of Shabbat.

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