For the seventh year in a row, Suburban Orthodox Congregation will play host to Shabbat Across America, a multidenominational celebration of Shabbat set to take place March 7.
“The goal really is a very simple one,” said Suburban’s Rabbi Shmuel Silber, “to achieve a togetherness within our community.”
The event will kick off just after 5 p.m. with a candle lighting followed by prayers and a Shabbat dinner featuring prime rib and chicken, in addition to more traditional options.
“I think one of the greatest challenges that we face as a people is there are so many issues that divide us, [we] also have a preoccupation with labels,” explained Silber. “The truth is, the one unifying experience is Shabbos. We may celebrate it differently, we may observe it differently, but we all try to expand upon the beauty that it is to our lives.”
Although the event is free, organizers request that those who wish to attend register ahead of time. Space at the synagogue is limited, and attendance usually reaches maximum capacity, said Silber. In addition to a cross section of the Baltimore Jewish community, in the past the event has also attracted people from places as far as Gaithersburg and Frederick.
The event is part of the larger Shabbat Across America and Canada organized by the National Jewish Outreach Program. When the candles are lit on March 7 at Suburban, attendees will join thousands of other Jews from every denomination celebrating Shabbat together across North America.
At Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Rabbi Susan Grossman is preparing for a guest appearance by Jewish musician Neshama Carlebach, who will participate in the service and give a presentation about “finding light in the darkness.” On March 8, Carlebach will lead the congregation in prayers, offer a d’var Torah and perform in a concert that night.
“When she sings she brings a bit of heaven down to earth,” said Grossman. The synagogue will also offer parallel tot Shabbat services and programs for older children that same night.
This is Beth Shalom Congregation’s 16th Shabbat Across America. For Grossman, the event represents the Jewish sense of unity.
“Here we’re identifying across communities and across borders, recognizing what we share,” she said. “One of the most beautiful things we share is Shabbat.”
Other local congregations participating in the event include Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah in Baltimore and Columbia Jewish Congregation. The NJOP also encourages those who cannot attend a community Shabbat to join in at home by visiting njop.org/programs/shabbat/shabbat-across-america-canada/ and following the instructions provided by the organization.
Ian Zelaya contributed to this report.