June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Shabbat Shalom With Shabbat.com: From Rabbi Klatzko’s Home to Yours

It was a dark and dull Thursday evening, and 19-year-old Rachel1 felt totally despondent; she was really down in the dumps, to put it mildly. Her life had completely fallen apart. With her father in prison and her mother out of the picture with a nervous breakdown, she was acting as mother and father to her youngest brother, as well as having to cope with another who was a hard-core drug addict. Rachel was stretched to her limit, and she couldn’t continue this way. She was seriously considering ending her life, when her phone suddenly pinged. It was a Shabbat invitation from Rabbi Benzion Klatzko. When Rachel realized that there was somebody out there who really cared, it gave her hope.

While sitting at Rabbi Klatzko’s Shabbat table, she ventured to ask him how he had gotten hold of her name. He replied that he had done a proximity search (to extend a Shabbat invite to anyone within 15 miles of his home) on the Shabbat.com website and her name had come up. Upon hearing that, Rachel was quite incredulous and poured out her current life situation to the rabbi. He then asked her if she was enjoying the Shabbat experience at their home, and if she still felt the need to end her life. Rachel replied that if she would be able to come again, it would give her the stamina she needed to keep on going.

Today, Rachel is happily married with children and thriving—all because of a “random” invite from Shabbat.com that literally saved her life.

This is but one of Shabbat.com’s many success stories—and demonstrates “the inestimable power of Shabbat to connect and heal” and how Rabbi Klatzko’s empire of hachnosas orchim, Shabbat.com, enables this transformation to take place.

Launched back in 2010, the sophisticated multifaceted website and social media platform that is today’s Shabbat.com was the brainchild of Rabbi Klatzko. The Klatzko home, unfortunately, has been through several fires—both in 2007, as well as recently, last November 2020, which rendered them homeless and frustrated their hosting capabilities. The idea for the Shabbat.com website—which currently provides Shabbat accommodation and hosting for Jews in need across 220 countries—came to the rabbi after the 2007 fire.

After extensive fundraising in 2009, Rabbi Klatzko built up this incredible, multimillion-dollar enterprise (originally known as “SeeYouOnShabbos.com” geared to finding meals for homesick college students and the like), whose singular mission is to promote “chesed and unity” across the globe, and he hasn’t looked back since … Not even after his more recent fire during COVID, although this currently means that the Klatzkos are still living in temporary accommodations and have to limit their weekly guest numbers to 60, instead of their former 80!

A quick peek at the Shabbat.com website—where one can sign up to host and be hosted—reveals a weekly detailed guest planner, a dizzying social media feed for all its members (which enables numerous chesed opportunities, such as donating to cause match campaigns), a blog with divrei Torah seen by hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide, as well as an online matchmaking/dating service dedicated to helping people find shidduchim. There is even a parsha section with Rabbi Juravel (Rabbi Klatzo’s father-in-law), where one can listen to inspirational parsha content for free.

Each week, guests sign up through the website, and the host can message each individual guest to make Shabbat arrangements, such as lodging and time of meals. It also means they can backtrack and restore lost property items to their owners, where necessary. To date, Shabbat.com has facilitated over 400,000 worldwide Shabbat invitations and has more than 50,000 people signed up as either guests or hosts. Through Shabbat.com’s extensive social networking abilities, it has built up a warm, dynamic global Jewish community, ever ready to perform chesed and “help God’s children in whatever way they need.”

Another unbelievable tale from Shabbat.com’s repertoire involves a man named “David2,” who recently found himself stuck on the road home, late one Friday afternoon. After realizing that there was no way he’d make it home for Shabbat, David quickly checked Shabbat.com to find the nearest person—a rabbi in New Jersey—who could host him at the last minute. While staying with him over Shabbat, David noticed that his host seemed a little down, so he inquired as to what was bothering him… The rabbi replied there was an agunah—a woman in the community awaiting a divorce for around 18 years, but to no avail. Upon hearing the name of the unfortunate lady, this “rang a bell” in David’s memory, as he recalled having been at her wedding and finding it strange that one of the witnesses to the marriage was seemingly someone who was not shomer Shabbat. (Only one who is shomer Shabbat can serve as a kosher witness.) When the rabbi heard this, he was immediately determined to track this guy down after Shabbat, to possibly finally free this agunah.

Indeed, the rabbi was able to locate the former witness, who confirmed that—although today, he was completely shomer Shabbat—back then, he hadn’t been and had even eaten in a non-kosher restaurant on the Friday night before the wedding. With this information, David’s host got in touch with a gadol hador, who paskened (ruled) that the kiddushin of this marriage was invalid and this meant, of course, that the lady wasn’t considered an agunah anymore and was free to marry right away! All in the zechus of Shabbat.com!

In fact, two of Rabbi Klatzko’s own sons found their spouses through the Shabbat.com website and now he has four precious grandchildren. Tangible and treasured dividends from a project that has redefined the entire Jewish globe.

Further innovations for Shabbat.com have recently included a multilingual language setting that allows the website to be viewed in seven different languages: English, Ivrit, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian and French. There are also plans afoot for a “frum” setting for those who’d like to browse and be part of Shabbat.com, without being exposed to images of women and the like. This is to make it suitable and encourage all sectors of Jewish society to get involved. With the support and backing of gedolei Yisrael, Rabbi Klatzko urges “anyone who’d like to do the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim,” specifically now after the COVID era, to come on board and join the world revolution that is Shabbat.com.

1 Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.

2 Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.

By Shifra Ebbing

 

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