Life-changing Shabbos stories

  • Moddin
The expression “life-changing” is thrown about a lot these days. It’s used to describe everything from a jump out of a plane to a self-help seminar to a plate of food. But how often does an experience literally change a person’s life – beyond recognition – so that things will never be the same. Shabbat, as the saying goes, can do that.”
by OWN CORRESPONDENT | Nov 21, 2019

Sandy Zarkin, Mexico City

“This was our first opportunity to observe Shabbat, and it was magical. I identify with Judaism, and try and follow Jewish customs at home. My husband, on the other hand, often expresses reservations about Jewish observance. No longer. From the first taste of the Shabbos Project, he has changed his mind completely. We shared meals and connected with our neighbours. He went to synagogue for the first time, connecting with the community and the rabbi. Every day we learn more and like more. For me, the Shabbos Project isn’t just the gateway to Shabbat. It’s the gateway to a renewed Jewish identity.”

Ilana Panush, Plano, Texas

“Two years ago, my family decided to join the Shabbos Project. We had never kept Shabbos before. After the 25 hours was over, I had such a great feeling. We participated again last year, and for some reason, I felt even better. This year everything just felt right. Tomorrow, we will be moving to a new residence within the Plano eruv and within walking distance of shul so we can keep Shabbos.”

Rabbi Moshe Fhima, Pinsk, Belarus

“Preparations for the Pinsk Shabbaton began a week before the event, once funding was secured. A car was sent out to Moscow (15 hours in the snow in each direction) to buy chicken for Shabbos, and a small advertisement was posted on our website. Within 24 hours, more than 300 spaces were filled. People came from all over the country. Some even travelled 16 hours by train. The event began with mothers and grandmothers preparing challah on Thursday night. Throughout the Shabbos, there were shiurim on various Jewish topics, spirited singing, and uplifting meals. The effect of these experiences will be felt for many months. At 23:30, five hours after Shabbos, three women were sitting alone in the dining room, crying. When I approached them, they said they didn’t want their first Shabbos to end.”

Richard Noar, Nelson, New Zealand

“I live in Nelson, New Zealand, a town of about 150 Jews, where we’ve tried to ‘keep it together’ over the past three years (sadly, we no longer have a shul – it was closed more than 100 years ago). Last weekend, my family being away, I decided to do the Shabbos Project all by myself. It was a wonderfully peaceful and meaningful 25 hours. Given our geographic location, along with other New Zealanders, I would have been among the first people on the planet to usher in Shabbat.”

Lana Wilder, Phoenix, Arizona

“October 2014 seems a long time ago. Then, I was an unaffiliated, unobservant Jew married to an unaffiliated non-Jew. A friend suggested I check out the Arizona challah bake. When I walked into the room at the Jewish Community Centre, I was overwhelmed by the spirit of hundreds of Jewish women from all walks of life. It sent shivers down my spine. My husband, Chris, and I decided to participate in the whole Shabbos Project that year. We were invited to a community dinner and Shabbat lunch. We walked to shul, and attended my husband’s first Shabbat service, and an amazing havdalah concert. And we have never looked back. Today, I bake challah every week. My husband and I kashered our kitchen and have kept Shabbat every week since that fateful day in 2014. Chris is on the ‘home stretch’ of a conversion.”

Ruti Madar, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Shabbos Project gave us the incentive to invite friends from Honolulu who don’t generally celebrate Shabbat. The dinner was so much fun! I baked a large challah, and served a sumptuous spread – a fusion of Israeli and Hawaiian cuisine with a Japanese flavour (we get kosher meat shipped in from Los Angeles). There was a cholent with Hawaiian Taro, Israeli salad with Big Island fern sprout, and much more. We sang songs, shared thoughts, and spoke and laughed well into the night. It was the first time we’d done something like this, but it won’t be the last.”

Daniel Hecht, Kopparberg, Sweden

“The Shabbos Project means so much because I live alone in the Swedish countryside. The village is called Kopparberg, almost 150 miles (241km) away from the nearest synagogue in Stockholm. No other Jews live here. When I came home from University Hospital after my Friday shift at the Cardiology ER and lit the candles, it felt like I was having Shabbat with a very big family!”

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