World's largest Shabbat dinner to take place in the White City next month.
On the evening of Friday, June 13th, a diverse group of Jews will gather together at sunset to break bread and celebrate Shabbat. There will be baked chicken, fluffy rice, and steaming-hot potatoes, as well as elegantly braided challahs and plenty of wine.
Sounds pretty ordinary, doesn’t it? But this Shabbat dinner will be far from business as usual. It will take place in a hangar, the better to accommodate the thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of revelers who plan to attend. The location? Tel Aviv, whose international reputation will attract an extraordinarily diverse and far-flung group of guests.
This is the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner, a record-setting gala thrown by White City Shabbat, a member organization of ROI Community that hosts monthly, all-inclusive Shabbat dinners in Tel Aviv. Having served more than 10,000 dinners since 2008, the group knows something about feeding a crowd, and this year to open its doors to, well, anyone at all who wants to come, thereby setting the first Guinness Book of World Records milestone for largest Shabbat dinner. Diners, who will hail from all over the world, will attend for free.
In order to fund this massive event, organizers turned to crowdsourcing, using the site IndieGoGo to raise over $26,000.
“The crowdsourcing campaign was a way for Jews and friends all over the world to get involved in this project, to feel a part of the history we are making here in Tel Aviv,” said Natalie Solomon, a ROI Community member who helped organize the event. “We hope their involvement with the project has inspired them to seek Shabbat and Jewish unity in their own communities.”
Encouraging community participation is both the inspiration for the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner as well as the goal at the heart of it.
“We were discussing one of greatest challenges facing Israeli society today: our lack of unity as one, or Am Yisrael Echad,” Solomon said. “And we thought, ‘wouldn't it be crazy if we brought together thousands of Jews, from all along the Jewish spectrum, here to our home in Tel Aviv to celebrate Shabbat together?’ Well it is crazy, and we are doing it!”
When organizers extended the invitation to Jews around the world, they hoped for global participation, Solomon said, but could not have predicted the stunning diversity of the RSVPs they received.
“The crowd will be as diverse a crowd of Jews as have ever come together: we’ve advertised the event in Hebrew, English, French and Russian,” she said. “We have guests from Rio de Janeiro and Rehovot, Birmingham, Alabama and Jerusalem, Minsk and Montreal, and of course many from the New York area.”
Solomon added that in addition representing international diversity, the Shabbat dinner guests will also come from all walks of life.
“We have young and old, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, different socioeconomic backgrounds, Israeli Sabras and Olim Chadashim, foreign visitors and tourists, government officials and community leaders—all sitting, drinking, and eating together at the Shabbat table,” she said.
The certified kosher, catered meal will offer traditional Ashekenazi favorites, as well as a spread of Israeli satatim to pay homage to its host city. Wine, provided by Golan Heights Winery, will flow freely. After all, there’s nothing more effective at bringing together a group of Jews than a hearty, comforting meal.
“We know that Shabbat is a tremendous gift that all Jews were given,” Solomon said. “By coming together in this uniquely Jewish way—at the Shabbat dinner table—we affirm our oneness and commitment to Am Yisrael.”
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