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By: Michael Greenbaum

With great anticipation and excitement, the Durban Jewish community and the DUHC eagerly participated in the fifth “Shabbos Project: Keeping it Together”, an initiative started by Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein 5 years ago to encourage the South African Jewish community to fully observe the laws and practices of one Shabbat. This first Shabbat Project saw the support of congregations, families and individuals with huge numbers attending shuls. The number of people observing this special Shabbat yearly throughout South Africa has exceeded all expectations. Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein expressed his amazement at the support for the project based on hundreds of reports from South African Jews at all levels of religious observance. He said that the energy of “The Shabbos Project” has been felt, not just on a communal scale across the country, but on a global scale including postings on Facebook, YouTube and emails from Australia, Canada, England and Israel while international journalists and Jewish media wanted information about what happened in South Africa. Subsequently, the “Shabbos Project” concept has gone worldwide over the past years with Jews all over the world “keeping it together” with city-wide pre-Shabbat Challah Bakes, Shabbat programs and Havdallah Concerts after Shabbat. For many, this was the first time in their lives they had observed Shabbat in full. The international “Shabbos Project” took place this year on the Shabbat of 27 and 28 October 2018, in 1357 cities in over 96 countries, bringing together 1 million Jews worldwide.

The Durban Jewish community was no exception and everyone spoke of how they would be observing Shabbat completely for the first time or, at least, improving their Shabbat observance. Throughout South Africa and the world, the project began on the Thursday prior to the Shabbat with countrywide and worldwide group challah-baking in Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world. In Durban, over 200 ladies participated in the Challah Bake at the Umhlanga Jewish Centre under the auspices of the Union of Jewish Women. An outstanding shiur was also given by Rebbetzin Estee Stern, an inspiring introduction to the forthcoming Shabbat programme.

Shabbat events began on Friday night at the Silverton Road Synagogue with candle-lighting by WIZO members of the “Spreading the Light” Unity Candle. This was followed by the Shabbat evening service. After the service, a delicious Kiddush L’Chaim with a “Scotch and Sushi” theme evening was enjoyed by all.

On Shabbat day, the well-attended morning service was followed by a splendid brocha. Before the communal lunch, Rabbi Lebowitz gave an exceptional shiur on “Lech Lecha”, the Parasha of the week where Abraham is commanded by Hashem to leave his land, family and home to go to an unknown land and make a new nation. This was followed by an enjoyable and lively lunch with song and food including the traditional Shabbat cholent. The DUHC thanks Selma Lurie for catering the excellent lunch.

In the evening before sunset, congregants gathered again at the Silverton Road Synagogue for Mincha and a lively and lavish festive Seudah Shlishit with wonderful food and Shabbat songs in the Sacher Family Hall, sponsored generously by Charlotte and Susan Abro. After the Seudah and the conclusion of Shabbat, Maariv was followed by a beautiful “campfire” style Havdallah ceremony led by Chazzan Jaron Kalmonowitz to mark the end of a wonderful Shabbat filled with community warmth and chaverschaft.

The DUHC extends thanks to Norman Ganz and Mark Werner for arranging Shabbos Project events and to the congregation for their participation in this wonderful initiative. We look forward to next year’s Shabbos Project.