In its second year, coming soon after the national debate over the Iran nuclear deal drove wedges into the American and global Jewish communities, the Baltimore Shabbat Project brought thousands of women to the Maryland State Fairgrounds last October to bake challah. Organizers of the initiative, which is affiliated with the South Africa-based International Shabbos Project, hailed the turnout as indicative of a need for Jews in Baltimore, as elsewhere in the world, to unite — if only for a day — behind the banner of Judaism’s holy day.
“I think we’re at a stage of Jewish history when there are a lot of dividing lines between us, and they are very superficial,” Rabbi Nitzan Bergman, executive director of the Etz Chaim Center and co-chair of the 2015 BSP, said at the time. “All Jews value Shabbat. … That’s why it is such a brilliant idea because it builds unity around Shabbat.”
Although Bergman, a South African native, made those comments when the JT wrote about last year’s Great Challah Bake, he might as well have been saying them today. It’s no secret that while we may have put the wounds of the Iran debate behind us, when it comes to politics, religious observance or worldview, the Jewish community is far from unified. Wouldn’t it be nice to once again unite behind the joy and serenity of a shared Shabbat?
In a time of division, we as a people need to
find common ground with each other.
The BSP thinks so, which is why the organization is seeking to expand on last year’s challah bake attendance by welcoming some 4,000 women to the Baltimore Convention Center on Wednesday, Nov. 9. They’re even busing attendees in, with pickup locations outside Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Greenspring Shopping Center and the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. The event will follow by three days a Shabbat Through the Senses program for children of all ages at the Owings Mills JCC.
Each, of course, is meant as an introduction into actually celebrating the Shabbat that begins on Friday night, Nov. 11, but whether or not people actually do — it’s safe to say that most will — there is a lot to be said for masses of Jews doing Jewish things outside of the political or advocacy arena.
The project concludes with a community Havdalah concert at Rams Head Live featuring Matisyahu.
As you’ll read in this week’s JT, there is much to be excited about this time around. And the JT, as an organization, is excited along with everybody else. In a time of division, we as a people need to find common ground with each other, and the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s events, which we are proud to support as a sponsor, are worthy places to start.