Shabbos Project returns to Cleveland
The Shabbos Project Cleveland will cross the Cuyahoga River this year with events planned on both the East and West sides. The Shabbos Project is an international, grassroots Jewish identity movement that unites all Jews to keep one full Shabbat together. An estimated 1 million Jews in more than 360 Jewish communities around the world will join together Nov. 11-12 to keep Shabbat. This is the third time the Shabbos Project has taken place in Cleveland. The event has three main components: a challah bake, Friday night Shabbat services and Saturday night community Havdalah events.
“The feedback I’ve received is that it’s such an amazing night of Jewish unity,” said Cheryl Fox, chairperson of this year’s Shabbos Project Cleveland. “I want them to feel that connection. In today’s world there’s so much divisiveness. I just want people to feel that we are all one and that we are all searching for the same thing, which is peace and connection with other people in the world.” This year’s events will begin at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 with a “Challah in the CLE” challah bake at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland in downtown Cleveland. More than 1,000 women and girls aged 8 and older will join together to inspire, connect and make challah. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Volunteer Bonnie Chizek of Twinsburg became involved with the Shabbos Project Cleveland two years ago. She attended that year’s challah bake after being invited by a friend. “It was after work, I was exhausted and I didn’t really want to go,” said Chizek, a member of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood. “I have to say for the few hours I was there, it was one of the most exhilarating, positive experiences I have ever had. “The women in the room were incredible. The energy, the laughter, the singing, the learning of the braiding of the bread, it was just such a feel-good moment to be surrounded by women that were just uplifting.”
Temple B’nai Abraham in Elyria will also host a challah bake on the West side this year. Rabbi Lauren Werber said Temple B’nai Abraham had a table at the challah bake last year at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights. “Having gone last year and things being centered on the East side, we realized we could give an opportunity to West siders to observe Shabbat on this special day as well,” Werber said. “The idea was to give West siders an opportunity to have a place to go, but also to welcome East siders who are looking for a more religiously progressive experience.”
The temple will host its challah bake from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 9. The event will be open to women, men, boys and girls, as well as non-Jewish community members. Oberlin College’s Jewish a capella group, CHALLaH cappella, will perform, and vendors will have items for sale. Temple B’nai Abraham’s Shabbat service on Nov. 11 will include elements related to the Shabbos Project. That night is also the temple’s veterans’ Shabbat service, and Weber said World War II veterans will be present. Werber said she hopes to host events tied to the Shabbos Project Cleveland every year.
“I think this is an opportunity for all kinds of Jews to connect in whatever way is most meaningful to them,” Werber said. “I appreciate it as a chance to be part of a larger community while finding your own Jewish identity. “We’re trying to do more and more to educate people that the bridge between the East and West side isn’t so big. There’s this really interesting, vibrant West side Jewish community, and it’s nice when we have a chance to share that with the East side.”
Jews throughout Northeast Ohio are encouraged to join together Nov. 11 to participate in Shabbat in their own communities and synagogues, as well as to create their own “Shabbat table” of guests. The Shabbos Project Cleveland will close Nov. 12 with Havdalah events planned throughout the area. Fox said she’s excited about the number of events planned for this year and hopes that people of all backgrounds participate and feel connected. “My message to the Cleveland community is that it’s for everybody,” said Fox, who lives in University Heights. “I’ve reached out to all organizations and synagogues in the community and wanted to let them know that everybody identifies with how to celebrate Shabbat in a unique way. It all comes from the same place, but everybody interprets it differently. That specialness should be celebrated and that specialness should be used to celebrate their own piece of Shabbat for themselves.”