Anticipation is building for the worldwide Shabbos Project on October 24, 2014, Parshas Noach. This global event is the brainchild of Rabbi Warren Goldstein, chief rabbi of South Africa. Through extensive PR and advertising last year, he orchestrated a countrywide Shabbos celebration in South Africa. The goal was to encourage all Jews regardless of affiliation to keep one Shabbos in its entirety. The project was kicked off the Thursday night prior to the weekend with 2,000 women gathering for a challah baking session. It was an extraordinary achievement as 35,000 people, 70% of South African Jewry, many for the very first time, kept a complete Shabbos. The event garnered so much enthusiasm outside of the country that the Shabbos project has now gone global. Plans for an international Shabbos celebration this year are underway and will G-d willing take effect a few weeks from today.
“This is where Shabbat.com steps in,” says R’ Benzion Klatzko, founder of the website. “We have the mechanism the Shabbos Project needs to realize their goal. We are their natural partner. Our database contains names of thousands of hosts and potential guests. Even more important,” he adds, “is that we have the ability to do the follow up. People will come and they will have an amazing Shabbos. It will kick up a lot of dust but what will happen the next week? And the week after that? Will these unaffiliated Jews continue to observe Shabbos or will they return to the same old, same old?” Through Shabbat.com’s database, these inspired first-time Shabbos keepers retain the ability to find places to go for other Shabbosim, for hosts to reach out to them and for them to keep in touch with the observant Jewish world.
Shabbat.com was launched in 2010 and to date has facilitated 400,000 Shabbos invitations and has 50,000 people signed on as guests and/or hosts. The goal of the site is manifold. It is not just about Shabbos. Primarily, the objective is to be a vehicle of chesed for the global Jewish community. Shabbos is the medium, connecting Jews to each other, to the resources they need, providing healing through Shabbos, whether they are unaffiliated Jews who have never experienced Shabbos, individuals visiting another country or town that need placement, widows, divorcees, or anything in between.
The power of Shabbos to heal and connect is inestimable, Rabbi Klatzko maintains. He shares a dramatic story. A host related to him that he had extended a Shabbos invitation on Shabbat.com to anybody within a 5-mile radius of his home. One of the responders was a young woman, who after Shabbos asked him how he had gotten her name. He told her that he did a proximity search on the website and hers was one of the names that had come up. The young woman did not believe him, she was sure somebody had told him about her and then she related her story.
Her father was in prison, her mother was mentally ill and one of her siblings was a hard-core drug addict. She was the one keeping the home together and just that week she had decided that it was too much for her and began to contemplate suicide. Then, out of the blue, she received this Shabbos invitation. When she realized somebody in the world cared about her, it gave her hope. The host asked her, “How do you feel now after this Shabbos?” She answered, “If you invite me again, then I will hold on.” Today, Rabbi Klatzko says, this young woman is married with a child and doing well – all because of a “random” invite from Shabbat.com.