OU and RCA Endorse “Shabbat 2014,” Uniting World Jewry in One Shabbat Together

22 Aug 2014

The warmth of the Shabbat candles; the delicious Shabbat meal; the blessings of the children and the ode to the Aishet Chayil; – this fixture of Jewish life for observant Jews is about to be extended to the broader Jewish community on “Shabbat 2014,” to be held on the Sabbath of Parshat Noach, October 24-25, the second week of the Torah cycle for 5775.

On that Shabbat, the Orthodox Union and its partner organization, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), will join with many outreach groups to open wide their arms to community members to let them know how Shabbat observance can sweeten their lives. Congregations will be encouraged to join “The Shabbos Project,” a successful initiative started last year in South Africa by Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, in which 35,000 South African Jews kept the Shabbat of Parshat Lech Lecha, many for the first time. The Orthodox Union is providing templates, resources, and program consultations in order to enhance the weekend for all involved.

Under the direction of the Department of Synagogue and Community Services, director Rabbi Judah Isaacs, and Hannah Farkas, manager of programs and special projects, OU member congregations across North America are being asked to engage their synagogues in promoting Shabbat observance. They are being given substantial opportunity to prepare, while at the same time getting ready for the cycle of fall holidays.  Participating synagogues will call on their congregations to invite friends, family, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances to join them at the Shabbat table.  In many cases, this invitation will include home hospitality over Shabbat.

Rabbi Steven Weil, OU Senior Managing Director who travels widely to OU synagogues in the United States and Canada, is actively involved in bringing synagogues and communities on board. “This summer when our boys, not knowing if they would ever come back from the Gaza, went out to war to protect Israel, the Jewish people unified; we were one people, one power,” he said.  “When 80 percent of our precious, tiny homeland was under rocket fire, we were one nation unified in our support of our soldiers, supporting our people. Once again all of the Jewish people will unite as one for a special Shabbat with no Jew left behind. So open up your tables, open up your homes and your communities this October 24-25. Am Yisrael Chai.”

Rabbi Weil noted further, “The OU has compiled a series of programming templates of activities for families, kids, and the entire community. Join me, join the OU family, the Rabbinical Council of America, and all of Klal Yisrael as we as experience the power of Shabbat. As one people, as one community, we will spend Shabbat together.”

Hannah Farkas noted that the programming templates range from materials for Thursday evening with challah baking; and include the Friday night experience; as well as templates for Shabbat day and a communal Havdalah Saturday night experience.  In preparing these materials, the OU included social media assistance, challah recipes, and youth programming ideas as part of the OU’s Youth Professionals Network. The OU is also available to provide consultations on how to create and tailor a program to your individual community.

OU synagogues across the country have already made a commitment to participate.  These shuls are located in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee. In Canada, participating synagogues are in Quebec and Ontario.  The University of Maryland Hillel, a partner in the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus program on the College Park campus, is also involved.  One synagogue has announced that it will bring Orthodox, Conservative and Reform congregations together for Shabbat dinner after they hold their separate services.

“We are in touch on a regular basis with our synagogues in the United States and Canada to participate in Shabbat 2014,” said Rabbi Isaacs, the director of OU Community Engagement. “We know that for so many people, once they have experienced Shabbat, they will come back for more, until it becomes a regular feature of their lives.  Each synagogue will determine how they want to celebrate Shabbat 2014 – each can choose its own approach.”

Given its experience in outreach, and its famed Havdalah ceremony, NCSY, the OU’s international youth arm, will promote Shabbat 2014 within its constituency, led by International Director Rabbi Micah Greenland. Other partners include Shabbat.com, a global Jewish social networking website helping people to connect and meet for Shabbat meals.

For more information on how to get involved in Shabbat 2014 or for a community consultation, please email Hannah Farkas at hannahf@ou.org or call (212)613-8351.