Sunday, May 31, 2020

On Friday night, November 15, the global grassroots movement the Shabbat Project is coming to Teaneck for the third year in a row. A catered dinner, preceded by candle lighting on the premises and Carlebach-style davening, will take place at Congregation Beth Aaron, 950 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck.

The entire evening has been thoughtfully planned by a local committee to make this Shabbat experience as welcoming and comfortable as possible for those less-affiliated, as well as engaging for those Torah-observant. Both observant and non-observant Jews are invited and encouraged to attend. This festive evening is designed for Jews of all backgrounds to come together to share the beauty of Shabbat in a warm, accepting and cheerful atmosphere.

The Shabbat Project’s yearly celebration was created by Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, in 2013. Jews all over the world organize events during the course of Shabbat on the same date each year in the name of the Shabbat Project.

The annual Teaneck gathering of The Shabbat Project is spearheaded by Joy Sperber, an involved member at Beth Aaron. She worked closely with Sam Kaplan of the Bergen County outreach organization the Jewish Learning Experience (JLE), whose kiruv presence in the area dates back to the mid-1980s.

Sperber said, “It only takes a kind word and a smile to have an impact on someone. That is why events like the Shabbat Project mean so much to me. When you reach out to someone it shows how much you care. We are all responsible for our fellow Jews. We must care about them like they are a long-lost cousin.”

In regard to the yearly partnership with Beth Aaron, Kaplan adds, “Beth Aaron has always had a very high percentage of people who did not come from frum homes.” The volunteers on the planning committee are no exception, as several of them chose to become more religious in adulthood and depended upon outreach groups to find their way. Those volunteers, under Sperber’s enthusiastic leadership, work together with a common goal and joyful attitude toward what they want to create for their guests.

The carefully planned out details and the passion behind the scenes produces the desired results. Now members of the congregation, along with others within walking distance, sign up quickly and in large numbers to attend this event each year. The social hall in Beth Aaron, as set up for the Shabbat Project, seats up to 150 guests and has sold out both years.

Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, the spiritual leader of Beth Aaron, and his wife Chaviva attend the dinner each year where he delivers a dvar Torah in honor of the event. Other speakers give inspirational words at intervals during the dinner. Zemirot are sung to enhance the Shabbat experience.

One of the liveliest parts of the evening is the a capella duo Jewbilation. Andy Dimond of Teaneck and Dr. Richard Seaman of New York City perform live to smiles and laughter as they flawlessly perform Jewishly-oriented remakes of famous songs by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and other famous artists (youtube.com/watch?v=C7f00_wBxPM).

For those interested in attending, space is still available and registration can be made online at bethaaron.org/event/shabbosproject2019. The dinner requires a reservation.

The evening begins at 4:19 p.m. with candle lighting in the Beth Aaron social hall. A slower-paced Carlebach-style prayer service begins at 4:30 p.m. upstairs in the beit midrash. Dinner catered by Petak’s in Fair Lawn begins at 5:45 p.m.

“Please consider inviting a relative, friend, neighbor or co-worker to the joint initiative between Congregation Beth Aaron, the JLE and the Shabbat Project for a wonderful Friday night experience on November 15,” adds Sperber.

By Allyson Gur-Aryeh