To help bring the feeling of a synagogue Shabbat into the family home during the pandemic, Beth Tfiloh Congregation devoted the month of January to their Shabbat Experience.
“Many of our members can’t come to shul in person right now and have been at their homes for many months,” Beth Tfiloh Rabbi Eli Yoggev said. “We wanted to help warm up these cold winter months with the Shabbat Experience that would connect them to the community and to our synagogue.”
The notion for the month-long event first arose following Beth Tfiloh’s High Holiday programming. After receiving great feedback from people who “felt very connected to our synagogue who can’t come here in person,” Yoggev said, Beth Tfiloh realized it wanted to offer a similar experience during the long winter, settling on Shabbat as the prime avenue through which to do so.
Yoggev estimated that planning for the Shabbat Experience began somewhere between October and November. January was chosen in part due to the relatively few holidays that fall during this period.
During each week of the Shabbat Experience, which ran throughout all of January, Beth Tfiloh sent out materials to congregants that were meant to help solidify their relationship to Shabbat. These included recorded sermons, prayers, handouts, catering and games for children, such as “Whose Jewish line is it anyway” and Find It Games.
Some of these, such as the sermons, were distributed to congregants via email or social media, while more tangible items like food were made available for pickup at the synagogue. Yoggev noted that one Friday morning saw some 50 to 60 cars coming through the synagogue’s drive-through to pick up their Shabbat materials.
There was also a raffle where the winner receives a free meal delivered to them, Yoggev said. Beth Tfiloh also had a special virtual musical Havdalah service Jan. 23 with rabbi and musician Shlomo Katz.
Ricka and Ian Neuman sponsored the Shabbat Experience in memory of their family members, Nelson, Phyllis and Roberta Neuman, Yoggev said. Ricka Neuman was previously the chair of Beth Tfiloh’s board of directors.
While the Shabbat Experience is not expected to return later in the year, Yoggev said that some fun things were being planned at the synagogue for Purim.
“We’re trying to do as much as we can within the limitations of Orthodoxy to provide for our community to be virtually connected to shul,” Yoggev said.