Fifteen Maryland synagogues will join an informal network on March 4 to celebrate Shabbat Across America and Canada, an annual event to celebrate and learn about Judaism’s seventh day.
Now in its 20th year, Shabbat Across America and Canada is “a time to invite people that don’t normally come to the synagogue and Shabbat service,” said Rabbi Elly Krimsky, program director of NJOP, a Jewish outreach organization which sponsors the program.
“We’ve done Shabbat Across America most years, and it’s an opportunity for us to emphasize Shabbat as a community celebration to have a dinner, to sing songs and give the community a sense of what Shabbat can be,” said Rabbi Sonya Starr of Columbia Jewish Congregation, one of 550 synagogues participating this year.
Whatever the date it falls on, Starr said the main thing is to come together and feel the delight of the tradition.
“It doesn’t matter what Shabbat it is. It’s about all of us acknowledging that Shabbat matters and being committed to celebrating Shabbat and experiencing Shabbat to its fullest,” she said.
Starr added that many people try to set aside time to unplug from technology, but are only now realizing that it’s not a new concept in Judaism.
“That’s what Shabbat has been throughout the centuries. That is the point of Shabbat, but our secular society is recognizing the needs that we’ve had [all along].”
Other area participants include the George Mason University Hillel in Fairfax, Kesher Israel and Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, and Kehilat Shalom and JROC in Montgomery County.
Geryl Baer, director of community engagement at Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County, said her synagogue is encouraging congregants to invite members to each other’s homes as well as attend the synagogue’s activities
Krimsky said that NJOP is emphasizing the “notion that not only is Shabbat being done every week, but this week is special because Jews in America — hopefully many who don’t normally do so — are engaging in the beauty of Shabbat.”