Bake-off launch for Shabbat UK


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said he has been "swept away" by community reaction to his Shabbat UK initiative, set to take place next month.

More than 100 synagogues, schools and other groups are planning events to enhance celebration and observance of the day of rest on October 24 and 25.

While communities have been encouraged to prepare special programmes, families are being asked to show hospitality and invite guests to their homes for a Shabbat meal.

"I think a warm, happy inspirational Shabbat table experience probably achieves more than 25 sermons do," said the Chief Rabbi. "Because it's the spirit of Shabbos, but most of all it's the joy of Judaism. And that's something I am always constantly wanting to convey to people.

"There is that perception that Judaism is primarly about restrictions. On the contrary, Judaism is about happiness, it's about meaning and love. Those who grasp hold of the opportunities that our tradition provides find that they have a very uplifting, happy existence. And that is certainly something that is going to be felt over Shabbat UK."

The first major event will be a mass "challah make" in London's Allianz Park, home of Saracens rugby club, on October 23, with similar bake-offs in Manchester, Leeds and Essex.

"We have prepared a wonderful promotional video and we are hoping tens of thousands of people will see it," the Chief Rabbi said. "What we are showing there is the power of the experience which hopefully will engage with people who don't usually keep Shabbat, who don't usually come to shul on Shabbat, but who recognise that spirituality is important in our lives.

"I am deeply impressed to find out how many people are genuinely rooted in their tradition and this will provide an opportunity for them to express it."

Rabbi Mirvis is planning to visit three communities over Shabbat UK, and will also be visiting schools ahead of the day. "I know that those kids are all fired up and they are excited to do something," he said. "There is going to be a significant build-up towards the occasion and already the indications are that a significant number of people who we don't usually hear about are going to be taking up the challenge."

He added, "I would love it if parents would make a point of blessing their children on Friday night even if they don't usually, that ladies can light the candles, that havdalah can take place at the conclusion of Shabbat. So that we can appreciate the gems that exist within a Shabbat experience."

The enterprise was inspired by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein of South Africa, whose Shabbos Project took place in 2013. This year, Shabbat-themed events will taking place in countries around the world.

"This is one of the major incentives for this project," Rabbi Mirvis said. "Because we know it is not only nationally that we are going to be doing something together, but internationally."

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