The Baltimore Shabbat Project (BSP) is joining the call for Jews all over the world to respond to increased levels of violent anti-Semitism in the U.S. and worldwide by proudly proclaiming Jewish identity through the potent Jewish symbol of Shabbat.
BSP plans to provide opportunities for thousands in the Baltimore area to observe the Jewish day of rest with added inspiration and celebration of Jewish identity. The main celebration will be the weekend of Nov. 15-16, Parashat Vayeira, with additional programs taking place leading up to the project.”
Previous celebrations “attracted more than 1 million participants in 101 countries across 1,511 cities and towns,” according to a press release issued by the Shabbat Project. Organizers believe the numbers will increase this year, helping “thousands of Jews from diverse backgrounds and affiliations to recognize that whether we call it Shabbos and say ‘Good Shabbos!’ or Shabbat and say ‘Shabbat Shalom!’, the day of rest belongs to all of us.”
In previous years, Baltimore’s annual celebration of the Shabbat Project featured large community-wide challah bakes and Havdalah concerts. This year’s local organizers elected to decentralize the program and encourage synagogues and schools throughout Baltimore to conduct programs for their constituents, focusing on the sanctity and uniqueness of Shabbat. Scheduled programs include guest speakers, chesed projects, festive Oneg Shabbat celebrations, classes and workshops on how to celebrate Shabbat, panel discussions, retreat programs and localized challah baking projects.”
A list of BSP activities can be found on its website together with other information about the project, including opportunities to volunteer, contribute and participate. The website also includes additional details about how to register for BSP events. Special features include a two part series by Rabbi Nitzan Bergman, a Ravens tailgate party, and a challah baking event.
A dedicated group of volunteers are providing leadership and encouragement to continue growing the project in local schools and synagogues as well as neighborhoods and organizations.
Many local rabbis will also be dedicating time on Shabbat Vayeira to encourage setting aside time to make Shabbat a core family value, especially considering the current challenges presented by technology, busy family schedules and so many other competing priorities.
“What brings people together?” Rabbi Steven Schwartz, senior rabbi of Beth El Congregation in Pikesville, asked. “What gets them on the same page? What enables them to leave behind their worries and concerns, and to fully immerse in the moment?”
“Some people might find that experience in their weekly Sunday football rituals. Preparing the food for the tailgate, welcoming family and friends to celebrate game day, wearing a special jersey or hat, and most importantly, sharing in chevreschaft as they cheer on their favorite team.”
“But if the food being prepared is for Friday night dinner, if the cooler with beer morphs into the sweet wine of kiddush, and the special clothes are our finest, if the time we share is sacred, suddenly, we are immersed in Shabbat. And in Shabbat, we find the chance to refresh our soulds, reorient our lives, and reconnect to those we love.”
Also invoking a football metaphor, Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation (MMAE) made a special appeal for community members to join in the events.
“In today’s world, for better or worse, The NFL is the most significant part of many people’s lives,” he said. “We’re hoping to demonstrate that the excitement of Shabbos can be just as powerful. We have a kiddush at the kick off, a d’var Torah at halftime, and havdalah to celebrate the win— because with Shabbos, you always win.”
The JCC of Greater Baltimore is also very involved this year, hosting The ABC’s of Shabbat and The Big Challah Bake. They are also having Shabbat Appreciation Week in both JCCs from Sunday Nov. 10 to Nov. 15. And, their preschool is making challah on Monday and giving it away on the Nov. 15, which is the Friday of The Shabbat Project.
“The JCC is proud to annually host the Baltimore Shabbat Project and partner to provide this wonderful and meaningful Jewish experience for our community,” said Barak Hermann, CEO of the JCC.
“Shabbat is a wonderful time to rest, be with family and friends, and reflect on what life provides us every week and the opportunities to make the world a better place. The JCC is excited to offer different opportunities for people of all ages to experience the beauty of Shabbat.”