As the international Shabbat Project begins on Thursday, Oct. 22, with thousands taking part in hallah baking around the world, local communities will be participating, with events in West Orange, Livingston, and Scotch Plains through Oct. 24.
This year marks the second for the West Orange/Livingston synagogue community and the first for the Leon and Toby Cooperman JCC in West Orange and the JCC of Central NJ on the Wilf campus in Scotch Plains.
JCC participation is being coordinated by the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, the identity-building organization of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. West Orange/Livingston participation is spearheaded by lay leaders Moshe Glick and Ira Bloom, who also served as cochairs of last year’s events.
The Shabbat Project was begun in South Africa in 2013 by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein as an attempt to unite Jews of all denominations around the globe for a single Shabbat. According to the project website, in 2014 over one million people in 465 cities in 65 countries participated.
Locally the project will kick off with several “Great Challah Bakes” in West Orange, Livingston, and Scotch Plains. (See below for times and registration information.) There is also a Friday evening family-style Shabbat dinner at Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David in West Orange, and a Saturday night Havdala ceremony followed by a free concert by the Jewish a cappella group Six13 at B’nai Shalom in West Orange.
Additional synagogues participating in area events included (at press time) Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston and Congregation Ohr Torah and Lubavitch Center of Essex County, both in West Orange. Etz Chaim will have its own Friday night dinner but will join the other activities, and Chai Center-Shul at Short Hills is hosting a Shabbat dinner in connection with the project but independent of other community activities.
Last year, more than 100 people baked hallah at the Friendship Circle in Livingston, more than 300 people participated in a Friday night dinner at AABJ&D, and more than 200 attended Havdala and a concert at B’nai Shalom.
“Not only does this event provide an opportunity for those who have not participated in a traditional Shabbat experience to do so, but just as importantly it demonstrates a clear display of unity among the synagogues in our community, particularly among the Conservative and Orthodox congregations,” said Glick.
Partnership/federation events are limited to the hallah bakes this year. “The Shabbat Project can take on so many dimensions in so many ways,” said Partnership director Robert Lichtman. “We wanted to stay focused and play off of activities that we do all the time anyway — engaging and empowering families with young children to take the lead in their own Jewish journeys.” Joining the Partnership and the two JCCs in coordinating the hallah bakes are Ahavat Torah Chabad at Short Hills and Chabad of Union County, the federation’s Women’s Philanthropy, and The Friendship Circle.