After a rash of anti-Semitic incidents on Long Island and across the country, Temple Avodah is hosting a Shabbat Across America dinner for the first time in years, while the South Shore Jewish Center will continue with the annual tradition.
Every Friday evening, people of Jewish faith gather for Shabbat, a service that occurs just before sundown to welcome a day of rest, the Sabbath. Jews observe Shabbat at their local synagogues, or sometimes in their homes. To foster unity in Jewish prayer, the National Jewish Outreach Program started Shabbat Across America in 1997. The event, on Feb. 28 this year, encourages Jewish places of worship to host dinner celebrations and speak about Shabbat’s significance.
Now in its 24th year, Shabbat Across America has since expanded to Canada. Next Friday at around 6 p.m., about 700 synagogues will observe the event, including Temple Avodah, in Oceanside, and the South Shore Jewish Center, in Island Park.
Temple Avodah Co-vice President Stacy Mandel Kapplan suggested that the house of worship host a Shabbat Across America dinner again as a display of Jewish pride in response to recent anti-Semitic attacks.
“There is a need to show strength and unity among Jews at this time in our country,” Mandel Kapplan said. “It’s really that it’s happening simultaneously — that hundreds of participating synagogues are doing this across the U.S. and Canada, doing the same thing at the same time. We’re hoping it will serve as a unifying force. You feel you are one of many.”
Temple Avodah officials called Shabbat Across America “an unparalleled display of Jewish revitalization and unity.” They decided to revive the event, once a temple staple, for the first time in years.
“Many years ago, it was a regular event,” Mandel Kapplan said. “It was actually the first [temple] event I attended when I was a new member about a decade ago.”
Rabbi Uri Goren describes Shabbat as a time to be present in the moment, show gratitude and feel one with others. “Shabbat is a time to reflect and to forgive and forget,” Goren wrote to congregants. “It’s a time to look at a way of being better.”
“On Feb. 28, Temple Avodah will create a complete Shabbat experience as we, together with hundreds of congregations around America and Canada, welcome Shabbat with prayers and a fantastic Shabbat dinner by Kombert Caterers with our loved ones,” Goren continued. “We will have the chance to talk and to enjoy the gift of Shabbat. It’s a time to be away from cellphones and to speak to one another with words, not texts.”
Goren and cantorial soloist Jessica Gubenko will lead the Shabbat service at 6:30 p.m. Then there will be a dinner reception in the Kombert Caterers dining hall. Reservations for the dinner must be made by Feb. 24, and it is open to both members and guests. The cost for dinner is $40 per person for adults, and $12 for children ages 5 to 11. It is free for children under 5. Seating will be limited to 10 people per table, and there will be assigned seating. For more information, visit avodah.org or call (516) 766-6809.
In Island Park
South Shore Jewish Center has hosted its Shabbat Across America dinner for the past seven years, organizer Michael Schnall said.
Schnall and fellow congregant Nancy Leiderman co-chair the Shabbat Across America Committee. “It unites reform and conservative synagogues in Canada and the United States in one night to recognize their heritage and celebrate together,” Schnall said.
The event will begin with dinner catered by Lido Kosher Deli at 6:45 p.m. Then, at 8 p.m., there will be a 45-minute Shabbat service, followed by dessert in the dining hall. During the service, the temple plans to honor longtime congregant Erwin Goldenberg, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, for his service to the synagogue. “He is very active in the congregation, and we celebrated his birthday last month,” Schnall noted.
To attend the dinner, temple and community members must RSVP by Feb. 21 by calling (516) 431-3590. For more information about Shabbat Across America, visit njop.org/programs/shabbat/saac.