When Jerry Sigal heard about The Shabbat Project, an initiative to bring Jews together which began in South Africa, he knew he wanted to bring it to Columbus.
“In South Africa they don’t have many different [affiliations]. They’re just Jews. They wanted to show as many Jews as they could what Shabbat is about.”
The Shabbat Project is a global, grassroots movement that brings Jews from across the world together around the shared heritage of Shabbat. The program was introduced in South Africa in 2013 by Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein who originally expected 1,000 to 2,000 South African Jews to participate. In the end, nearly 7,500 people took part.
After the event, when Goldstein posted a video and participants shared their personal experiences through social media, thousands of emails started pouring in, asking how the South African event could be emulated in local communities worldwide. In 2014, The Shabbat Project took place in 465 cities in six countries. Last year a record 918 cities participated.
For Sigal, the experience reminded him of keeping Sabbath at youth group conventions when he was a teenager.
“For a normal teen, it’s all about what you can’t do. But at that convention you had hundreds of kids singing songs, feeling this really cool togetherness and wonderfullness of the Sabbath. I wanted to draw on that for [614 Shabbat]… My thought was to have everyone feel the way I felt at that first convention.”
Bringing this idea to fruition was uncertain, at first. Jerry Sigal, his wife and Co-Chair Laura Moskow Sigal, and his mentor Jackie Jacobs at the Columbus Jewish Foundation all had their doubts, but the response from local synagogues, organizations, and the entire community was overwhelmingly positive.
“The best part was seeing it actually happen. We had over 1,000 people involved over three days, from Challah bakes to the Saturday night concert,” says Laura Moskow Sigal. “We got everyone involved and speaking with one voice.”
614 Shabbat’s origins were grassroots, but this year the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus will help coordinate the efforts. Now, going into it a second time, Jerry Sigal is more confident than ever.
“I think we can double our numbers. People from last year will come back and people know about it this year.”
The Second Annual 614 Shabbat returns to Columbus Nov. 10-12 and is open to the entire community. Building on last year’s success, the entire Jewish community will join in a Shabbat experience for all ages, affiliations, and backgrounds over the course of three days.
Events begin on Thursday, Nov. 10 with Challah braiding gatherings which will take place at the College Ave JCC, New Albany JCC, and Beth Tikvah. These gatherings are a great opportunity to gather with friends, meet new people, and learn new techniques and recipes for future Shabbats.
On Friday, Nov. 11, synagogues and volunteer hosts will share Shabbat meals together. Most local synagogues participated last year and as many or more are expected to participate this year. Young adults will also open their homes for this special meal, offering a variety of ways to engage as a community. Some synagogues will also host discussions and learning sessions on Saturday, Nov. 12.
The Shabbat activities will culminate in community Havdalah and musical concerts Saturday night at the College Avenue JCC. There will be a musical performance by Arkadiy Gips and Friends and, new this year, a children’s concert with Marc Rossio. Gips is a classically trained violinist who is based in Columbus, but has toured worldwide. Rossio is Gahanna-based guitarist and performer who specializes in children’s music and is frequent performer at JCC preschools.
Jeff Wasserstrom participated last year by getting people involved as a representative from Beth Tikvah. He volunteered for around nine months leading up to last year’s 614 Shabbat, and he looks forward to participating again this year.
“Maybe it’s just my background, but the biggest thing with Judaism is the family atmostphere,” says Wasserstrom. “It’s about trying to break down the barriers between synagogues. We’re one big family.”
Wasserstrom and everyone involved last year agree that there is something extra special about the sense of community at 614 Shabbat. It recalls fond childhood memories of keeping Sabbath and unites many different people within the Jewish community in Columbus.
“We support each other in all events,” explains Laura Moskow Sigal, “But we don’t always participate together. It makes a big difference. Coming together is what makes it a success.”
Temple Beth Shalom Cantor Gail Rose says, “Shabbat is always a special, sacred time. Celebrating it as a 614 Community makes Shabbat a memorable, special, sacred time.”
JCC Outreach Coordinator Yale Glinter hopes to grow the reach of 614 Shabbat this year and in years to come.
“This year we look forward to bringing in people who didn’t come last year and having broader and more active participation,” says Glinter.
Collaboration between the JCC, Jewish Federation of Columbus, Columbus Jewish Foundation, local synagogues, and dedicated community members is what makes 614 Shabbat possible. In the future, Glinter wants to expand the impact of 614 Shabbat, continue working with community partners, and have more community-wide events like it with the end goal of a stronger Columbus Jewish community.
Local synagogues can be contacted for more information about individual events for 614 Shabbat. Those with questions about 614 Shabbat overall, and those interested in participating who are not affiliated with a synagoge, can contact Yale Glinter at 614-559-6215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Akardiy Gips and Friends concert is underwritten by the Uncle Davey Fund of the Columbus Jewish Foundation.The Children’s Concert is underwritten by PJ Library and the Jewish Federation of Columbus.
Schedule of Events:
Thursday, November 10
Locations: College Ave JCC, Northwest – JCC New Albany, NW (Future Home of JCC North) at Congregation Beth Tikvah
7-7:15 – Intro and sharing of a favorite Shabbat experience
7:15-7:55 – Challah make and table conversation
8 pm – Program ends
Saturday, November 12
Location: College Ave JCC
6:30 – JCC open
7-8 – Children concert with Marc Rossio followed by snack (8-8:30) in the old gym (kids can sit on mats with chairs for the parents)
7-8:30 – Havdalah in room 218/219, audience can mingle and snack. Arkadiy and Friends play music from 7:30-8:30 pm
9:00 – Program ends
Registration coming soon! Follow us on Facebook: http://bit.ly/2ckZrPR