THE Shabbat Project has just one simple aim, to unite Jewish communities around the world for one 25-hour period, when they can come together and experience one Shabbat. The hope is that this shared experience will lead to deeper spiritual and communal connections.
As a tech entrepreneur, I have witnessed first-hand the impact technology has on our everyday lives. We are at an unprecedented time in history where technology outpaces and overwhelms our ability to keep up every day. We are being controlled by something we should be in control of.
The Shabbat Project has really brought an innovative reprieve to our community, and though only for one week in the year, we have seen an amazing uptake of the community in driving this program and celebrating the community’s ability to disconnect from the everyday, and reconnect with our family, friends and community. Shabbat is the greatest gift given to our people in the modern day.
The concept started in South Africa in 2013 and has since become a global phenomenon. This year on Friday, November 15, over one million Jews in more than 1500 cities will disconnect from their devices and tune into Shabbat.
In Sydney it has evolved into a true grass roots program supported by our major communal organisations with over 50 community organisations hosting programs each year. Across Australia, the Project will be celebrated in Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns with our neighbours in Auckland participating with many events for the first time.
The Shabbat Project has inspired many fascinating feats and broken records with large scale and innovative events like the largest ever Kabbalat Shabbat gathering which took place on Bondi Beach in 2016 with over 2600 in attendance.
This year, the Shabbat Project continues to bring our community new experiences coming together around Shabbat preparation with the Machane Yehuda style Shabbat Shuk in Kiaora Lane, Double Bay, today, Thursday, November 14, from 3pm to 7pm.
We are excited to see such excitement around the Shuk. This has been a great initiative to generate a buzz around the preparation and lead-up to Shabbat in an atmosphere akin to Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem.
The Shabbat Project and UIA are expecting in excess of 3000 people to attend the Shabbat Shuk with a curated selection of the top kosher suppliers where you’ll find everything from challah to chicken, fish to fudge, brisket to blintzes and everything else you’d want for your Shabbat table. You can even purchase your braided challah dough ready to bake at home. To add to the ambience there will be live music, a kids’ activity zone, and the Golden Sheaf is hosting its first kosher pop-up bar – Bazaar Bar. (Free registration at shabbatproject.org.au/shuk.)
The JNF and Grandma Moses are working together with local Jewish schools to attempt to break the Guinness world record for longest braided loaf of bread. The aim is to bake a challah that is 10m long! The current record was set in 2015 in Brooklyn where they baked a challah that measured 20 feet (approximately six metres) and displayed it through the streets on a flatbed truck.
While there are some impressive events that may earn a place in the record books, there are over 75 community-led events registered to ensure that there is something for everyone across Sydney and in our fringe communities who wants to join in and experience Shabbat, even out to Dubbo and Wollongong. There are challah bakes, Shabbat meals, learning programs and a Havdalah rock concert featuring internationally-acclaimed Moshav Band.
The Shabbat Project Sydney is proudly brought to life with the support of our partners. We would like to acknowledge the generosity of our strategic partner JCA, presenting partner UIA, communal partners; Moriah College, Emanuel School, Mount Sinai College, JNF, Shalom, Wolper Hospital, media partner The Australian Jewish News and the generosity of private donors.
Danny Sekers is chair of The Shabbat Project Sydney. For all information, visit shabbatproject.org.au.