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Welcoming Jews to Shabbat

October events in the Five Towns aim to promote Jewish unity


Hoping to engage more Jews in Judaism and to encourage them to take the time to unwind and connect with their fellow community members, Far Rockaway resident Adina Fischlewitz wants more people to take part in the activities leading up to the Shabbat Project on Oct. 26 and 27.

Fischlewitz, coordinator of the Shabbat Project Long Island, said she believes people are occupied by so many activities during the work or school week that Shabbat — the Jewish Sabbath, from sunset Friday to sundown Saturday — should be a time to “step back, relax and to connect to each other as humans,” while disconnecting from all the electronic devices and what she called being “bombarded” by distractions.

The Shabbat Project is a global, grassroots movement that encourages Jews all over the world to gather locally and celebrate Shabbat. The project began in South Africa five years ago, where the chief rabbi of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues of South Africa, Dr. Warren Goldstein, called on the Jewish community to celebrate Shabbat together. The project’s informational pamphlet is distributed in 97 countries and has been translated into 10 languages, Fischlewitz said.

“I feel that Judaism belongs to all Jews,” said Fischlewitz, a retired public school teacher who grew up in Brooklyn and taught for more than 30 years. “We want to engage all ages, kids to seniors. It’s their Shabbat.”

There will be two pre-project events at the Harrison-Kerr Family Campus of the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC, at 140 Central Ave. in Lawrence. On Oct. 22, girls ages 12 and older, their mothers, aunts and grandmothers will make candlesticks from ceramic molds at Let’s Light Shabbat. On Oct. 25, boys and their fathers, uncles and grandfathers will explore the deeper meaning of Shabbat at Let’s Explore Shabbat. Both events will begin at 7:30 p.m., and doors will open a half-hour earlier.

Chazaq, a Queens-based organization dedicated to enriching Jewish lives, the National Council of Synagogue Youth and Partners in Torah are the collaborating sponsors of the event.

“Shabbat is a unifier,” said Stacey Feldman, the associate executive director of the Gural JCC. “It is the glue that will keep the Jewish people together.”

The centerpiece of the get-ready-for-Shabbat events is the Challah Bake Long Island Style on Oct. 24, at 6:45 p.m., at the Sands Atlantic Beach. This event, for girls and women of all ages, attracts participants from the Five Towns, surrounding communities and as far away as Westchester County.

Erica Brown, of Hewlett, has attended every Challah Bake since the first one in 2014. Jewish but not Orthodox, Brown said that the Shabbat Project reminds people of the importance of the weekly observance. “I went to the first one — it was a lot of fun — with my friends to make challah, learn to braid a little bit differently,” she said. “We keep going back because it’s fun and really lovely.”

Brown and her friends got to know two sisters from Far Rockaway, Rachayle and Shoshana Salzberg, who are Orthodox Jews. “I think the Shabbat Project is a great way to bring the Orthodox and the regular community together,” Brown said. “It’s a nice community event.”

There will also be Let’s Block Shabbat get-togethers on the weekend of Oct. 26-27. “We have several blocks within the Five Towns, Far Rockaway and Bayswater areas starting their preparations to create their own exciting Shabbat block events with their neighbors and friends,” Fischlewitz said.

Admission for Let’s Light Shabbat is $25; for Let’s Explore Shabbat, $10; and for Challah Bake Long Island Style, $39. To sign up for all three events, go to challahbakeli.com.