Jews in 212 cities in 33 countries observed Shabbat together last week and the OU and its Community Engagement and Synagogue Services Department were right there supporting them.
Parashat Noach saw the successful launch of Shabbat 2014. It’s an OU initiative to assist communities across the continent with programming for the Shabbos Project, which went international in its second year. It was a huge success when it was founded in South Africa last year by Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein. This year the OU produced templates, resources and videos for OU member congregations across North America as they, too, worked to promote Shabbat observance in their communities.
Events over the course of the weekend included:
- A challah-baking and challah cover workshop in Ottawa, Canada. On Shabbat itself more than 220 people got together for a Shabbaton with the theme “Challenges to Shabbat in the 21st Century.” Roundtable discussions addressed such issues as the so-called “Shabbat App,” technology, kiruv issues, and more. Every synagogue in town participated, each denomination tailoring their program to suit their needs, then coming together for a joint havdalah program sponsored by the Federation and featuring Chasidic rock band Shtreimel.
- In Teaneck, NJ, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger and Rabbi Tani Cohen led an explanatory minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat, while OU Senior Managing Director Rabbi Steven Weil and Yossi Zelig led one for Shabbat morning. Miriam Peretz, mother of two fallen IDF soldiers, spoke at shalosh seudot and a spiritual havdalah service was led by Shy Krug and Carl Guzman.
- In NY’s adjoining Queens and Nassau counties, communities including Bayswater, Cedarhurst, Far Rockaway, Hewlett, Inwood, Lawrence, Long Beach, North Woodmere and Woodmere all participated in an incredible weekend. It began with a sold-out women’s challah bake at the Sands, a well-known catering hall in nearby Atlantic Beach, accompanied by musical guests The Maccabeats. Each community conducted its own programming, culminating in a joint havdalah with the Maccabeats in Lawrence. Other activities included an “Ask the Rabbis” panel and guest speaker Gavriel Sanders on “A Ministers Journey to Judaism.”
- The Southeast Hebrew Congregation in Silver Spring, MD, ran a program that included a challah bake, a communal lunch, shalosh seudot and a melave malka. Approximately 60 guests were in attendance.
These and many other events throughout the US and Canada contributed to a truly extraordinary kiddush Hashem, as thousands of unaffiliated and under-affiliated Jews were introduced to Shabbat and Orthodox communities. We thank all of the participating shuls and communities, as well as the OU’s Department of Community Engagement and Synagogue Services, led by Director Rabbi Judah Isaacs and Assistant Director Hannah Farkas.