By Benita Siemiatycki
Jewish Federation of Ottawa
It started as an experiment. South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein was looking for a way to get his Jewish communities to observe Shabbat – a core aspect of Judaism. In a chance encounter with American professor Dan Ariely, a renowned behavioural economist at Duke University, Ariely told Rabbi Goldstein that you can’t get people to change their behaviours drastically and permanently right away. He suggested getting them to buy in for a finite period of time – just to give a taste.
And thus, the Shabbat Project was born. For one Shabbat in October 2013, Jews across South Africa, regardless of denominational affiliation or levels of observance, were urged to buy in. From sunset Friday to Havdallah Saturday, an estimated 20,000 people turned everything off, attended services, refrained from driving and returned to the traditional observances their ancestors practised. A toolkit was created to help educate Jews with little knowledge of Shabbat.
It wasn’t long before news of the Shabbat Project spread. Last year, Ottawa joined cities around the world, October 24-25, by hosting the Shabbat Project with the participation of every congregation in the city. A community-wide Havdallah was held at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre with more than 450 people in attendance. With a raucous and freilach performance by Montreal’s klezmer band, Shtreiml, everyone was on their feet and in a party mood.
This year, Ottawa will again be one of 170 cities in 30 countries participating in the Shabbat Project on October 23 and 24. Twenty-four organizations, from congregations to youth groups representing every religious affiliation, will offer Shabbat programming. Everyone in the community is encouraged to attend a Shabbat service at a synagogue of their choice.
The weekend actually starts off with a “twist” – a Challah Bake for women on Thursday, October 22, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC). Women will learn how to make the dough and get the perfect twist on their challah, which they’ll take home to their families. Tickets are $18, and space is limited.
Shabbat will end with a Unity Havdallah on Saturday, October 24, 7:45 pm, when a shuk-style festival will descend on the SJCC. Various activities, including buskers, make-your-own besamim (Havdallah spices), crafts, wine-making and, of course, food will be featured. Everyone is invited to enjoy this meaningful end to Shabbat hosted by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the SJCC. Admission is free.
“We are really excited to be expanding the Shabbat Project this year in Ottawa based on the tremendous response we received last year,” said Bram Bregman, vice-president of Community Building at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. “The Challah Bake and Unity Havdallah will be fun and inspiring evenings where Jews of all backgrounds can celebrate together.”
The goal this year is to have every seat at every shul service and community event filled. A list of events and participating organizations, as well as information about keeping Shabbat, are available at www.jewishottawa.com/shabbatproject. Challah Bake tickets may be purchased on the website or at the SJCC.
Contact Benita Siemiatycki at email@example.com or 613-798-4644 for more information.