Ashburn, VA (PRWEB) February 23, 2012
Imagine it - regular Jewish worshippers, the occasional Jewish attendee, the you-could-not pay-me –to- go to synagogue Jew, the other-religion or no-religion sojourner, the curious about Judaism - coming together on one Sabbath a year at synagogues across the continent. That is the essence of “Shabbat Across America”, a program promoted by the Jewish Outreach Institute, which will occur nationwide on Friday night March 2nd. Synagogues across the country have signed on to open their doors, more than wide, for a meal and a prayer service to give the community a magical Sabbath experience.
On Friday night, March 2, 2012 Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn, VA will take part in this historic national Jewish event to celebrate what unifies all Jews — Shabbat!
The Jewish people are not defined by observance and belief like many other religions. One can be Jewish and not practicing, or occasionally practicing, or always practicing. One can be Jewish and believe in God or not (though believing in more than one God sets you “outside”). Mordechai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, argued that Jews are a civilization and that a civilization has many facets – culture, cuisine, customs and more – religion and its observance is but one facet.
So what binds Jews together? Most commonly the answer is being born or choosing to be Jewish through conversion. The early Zionist Ahad Ha’Am (a pseudonym meaning “one of the nation”) famously said: “More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.” For Ahad Ha’am, the marking of Jewish time, and specifically the most regular of Jewish holy days, the Sabbath, which occurs weekly, is a defining component of Jewish identity.
A little over four years ago, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, now the past-President of the Union for Reform Judaism, introduced a Shabbat Initiative to the over 900 congregations that affiliate with the Reform Movement of Judaism. As part of this effort to make Jews more conscious of remembering and observing Shabbat Rabbi Yoffie asked important questions: “What would and could a contemporary Reform Shabbat practice be like? How can we reshape our members' perceptions about Shabbat? What kinds of institutional and communal supports are needed for us to provide our congregants with the knowledge and means to observe Shabbat fully, meaningfully and joyfully?”
It is questions such as these that are being addressed through multiple efforts in many ways. From study guides, to synagogue programs, from a pack of 52 cards with suggestions for Sabbath observance and how-to guides on observing the Sabbath in your home. And yes! The Jewish Outreach Institute’s “Shabbat Across America” is another one of those programs that seeks to re-relevant Shabbat for Jews of all colors and stripes.
So if you are a regular Jewish worshipper, the occasional Jewish attendee, the you-could-not pay-me-to-go to synagogue Jew, the other-religion or no-religion sojourner, or the curious about Judaism and you wish to walk through the wide open Sabbath doors on March 2nd, feel free to contact my synagogue or another "Shabbat Across America” venue.