Today I helped man the JC’s Twitter takeover with the Chief Rabbi. As media partners of ShabbatUK, the theme of the takeover was Shabbat, and readers and Twitter users were encouraged to take part using the hashtag #weloveshabbat.
Before he arrived there was a lot of activity in the office – tidying stacks of paper, cleaning desks, setting up food (this is a Jewish office after all). Staff members were debating whether to wear kippot and how to address him. It’s a weird phenomenon that people in the public eye take on an almost other-worldly quality when you meet them – and the fact that the Chief Rabbi came with his own security convoy to scope out the building didn’t help to lessen this!
After a couple of weeks of our Twitter feed being unfortunately filled with harrowing and frankly scary headlines, it was nice to fill it with – as trite as this might sound – happy thoughts, messages of peace - and cholent recipes.
Messages flooded in through the hour and we had to work fast to keep up and answer as many as we could. The questions ranged from jokey (‘How soon after Shabbat do you check the football/ rugby results?’) to religious (‘How can you ensure a spiritual & meaningful Shabbat when away from home for work?’) to personal (‘egg and onion or chopped liver?’), as did the answers (‘we love food’, ‘benching can be said to oneself, out loud or sung’, ‘I’m a chopped liver man!’) . The Chief Rabbi was very quick at answering questions and enjoyed some of the more creative and interesting ones; “that’s a very good question. Make sure you say in the response that that’s very good,” he told me more than once.
ShabbatUK is about getting the community involved in Shabbat, encouraging those who don’t keep it to try it out for a week. The Chief Rabbi obviously thinks of Shabbat as a magical day – and if that did not come across in his tweets (although I think it might have), it certainly did hearing him respond to your questions.
Having the Chief Rabbi sitting at the news desk of the community’s oldest newspaper and interacting with readers on Twitter was a pretty special experience and really exemplified the idea of community that ShabbatUK is trying to promote.Listen to the Chief Rabbi speak about Shabbat on this week’s edition of the JC Podcast.