Put down your cell phones and grab a prayer book, because the Shabbos Project is coming to Baltimore. From sundown to nightfall on Oct. 24-25, the project is encouraging locals to join Jews around the world and keep Shabbat for one weekend.
Starting in South Africa in October 2013, the Shabbos Project introduced many Jews to Shabbat observance for the first time, say organizers. Going global this year, more than 212 cities — including Baltimore — in 33 countries will participate in the 25-hour event. Festivities will begin with a women’s Challah Bake at the Owings Mills JCC on Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. and conclude with a Jewish Unity Havdallah service and concert at the Park Heights JCC on Oct. 25 at 8:30 p.m.
“Shabbat is a common denominator for all Jews. It is the glue that holds us all together,” said Rabbi Nitzan Bergman, executive director of the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Living and Learning, which is coordinating the Shabbos Project in Baltimore. “We are tailoring our events to be more specific to Baltimore and hope to reach as many people as possible.”
Geared toward people who do not always observe Shabbat, the project hopes to inspire people to keep Shabbat more frequently. Max Abelson, a former master’s student at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, is coming down from Philadelphia to participate in the event. Raised as a secular Jew, he became more involved in Judaism after meeting Berman during his time in Baltimore.
“I do not keep Shabbat regularly, and I cannot wait to come down for this weekend,” said Abelson. “This is such an important initiative. The Baltimore Jewish community really elevated my involvement in Judaism, and I cannot wait to take part in the weekend’s events.”
Playing trumpet in the Saturday night concert, Abelson will take the stage with Diaspora Yeshiva Band member Avraham Rosenblum in the debut of the Brisket Brothers.
“I am known as the ‘Rockin’ Rabbi,’ and I can’t wait to perform in the Shabbos Project,” said Rosenblum. “When I heard about the Shabbos Project, I felt inspired. I volunteered my services because I feel like just being in each other’s presence during Shabbat is important.”
Helping run the Challah Bake, Jen Gaither hopes to encourage women to come out for that event.
Gaither believes people should take a break from their daily lives and enjoy the beauty of Shabbat.
“When the boundaries between work and home have faded and technology is a constant distraction, families need a time to unplug and connect,” she said. “And we all need to be reminded that there is something bigger than our egos. Committing to one Shabbat is a very doable way to do this. Individuality is important but not more important than community and relationships, so let’s all observe one Shabbat together to bring back that balance in our lives.”
Rabbi Moshe Hauer of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation is looking forward to the event and cannot wait to see how it impacts the Baltimore community.
“It is a magnificent project, and I encourage all to participate,” he said. “Whether you celebrate Shabbat regularly or not, Shabbat is a beautiful weekly unifier and is meant to be observed by everyone.”
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