Entertainer Paula Abdul says she is observing Shabbat this weekend because she was asked to by the chief rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein.
“And when the chief rabbi calls, like, are you going to turn him down?” Abdul says in a video promoting The Shabbos Project, which Goldstein initiated last year in South Africa in 2013 and which the Jewish outreach network Aish is promoting worldwide on Oct. 24 and 25.
“The concept is simple,” according to Aish.com. “Jews of all walks of life, from across the spectrum – religious, secular and traditional; young and old, from all corners of the world – uniting to experience one full Shabbat together, in full accordance with Jewish law.”
In the Washington area, the Southeast Hebrew Congregation will join The Shabbos Project, with groups forming to celebrate together over the 25 hours of Shabbat. After Shabbat ends, the Orthodox congregation in Silver Spring will host a concert by The Sinai Mountain Boys, a self-styled “Jewgrass” band. Contact Southeast Hebrew Congregation at 301-593-2120.
Aish of Greater Washington, in Rockville, plans a Shabbat of meals, services and classes. Rabbi Shraga Simmons, author of David and Goliath: The Inside Story of Media Bias in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, will speak on topics including, “Would Moses ‘Like’ Facebook?” Contact Aish at [email protected]
Silver Spring Jewish Center is offering its own program, “A Taste of Shabbos,” aimed at “introducing less observant Jews to, and elevating our own spirituality and meaning for, Shabbos,” Rabbi Dovid Rosenbaum explained in a letter to his congregation.
During Shabbat, the Orthodox synagogue will offer prayer and classes. At a late-afternoon meal, members of the community will talk about their journeys of growth. Contact Silver Spring Jewish Center at [email protected]
The Shabbos Project’s supporters and would-be participants, like Abdul, are spreading the word globally, using social media tags including #ShabbosProject, #KeepingItTogether and #unityshabbos.
But The Shabbos Project has its critics.
Writing in the blog Jewish Outreach: What Your Rabbi Isn’t Telling You, Suzanne Oshinsky and Shloimie Ehrenfeld argue that The Shabbos Project’s goal may prove divisive, rather than inclusive as organizers say it is, because its aim is to encourage Jews to adopt the Judaism of the Aish outreach group.
“This project epitomizes the mindset that there is only one derech [acceptable way] in Judaism. Therefore, there’s only one way to observe the Sabbath,” they write.