In the second half of 2013, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa launched
a nationwide initiative calling on all South African Jews to keep one full, halachic Shabbat. The results were astounding; the majority of South African Jewry came together to observe the Shabbat of Parshat Lech-Lecha in its entirety, many thousands of whom kept Shabbat for the first time.
The Shabbos Project spanned 10 South African cities in four provinces. A nationwide communication campaign was undertaken using social media, radio, billboards, and print media, as well as targeted public addresses at schools and shuls, and celebrity endorsements.
The Shabbos Project opened with a Thursday night event that saw over 2 500 women preparing challah dough on the streets of Johannesburg, and closed with a massive Saturday night open-air Havdallah concert attended by well over 5 000 people.
From beginning to end, the campaign was run with the highest level of professionalism and excellence, and despite significant logistical challenges was an overwhelming success – as illustrated by the statistical outcomes of the project, and by the extraordinary personal feedback received in its aftermath.
Pretty soon, the impact of The Shabbos Project reverberated around the Jewish world, and over the past few months, Jewish leaders have been writing in from Jerusalem, Baltimore, Atlanta, London, El Salvador, Sydney and many other places, all expressing their intent to implement The Shabbos Project in their own cities.
In response, an “International Shabbos Project” is currently being planned through the Office of the Chief Rabbi in South Africa.
This worldwide campaign will be co-ordinated through a head office in Johannesburg, which will partner with communities around the world, providing support in the form of standardised marketing material and other resources, whilst enabling partner communities to customise to their unique regional requirements.
In 2013, The Shabbos Project took an entire country’s Jewish population by storm, dramatically increasing levels of Jewish pride, Jewish identity, and Jewish unity. This year, it has the potential to have the same profound effect on the Jewish world at large.
The International Shabbos Project will, with the help of Hashem, take place on Parshat Noach, 24-25 October 2014.