BY DEBORAH MOON
On April 17, you are invited to join (virtually) Jewish residents of Oregon and Southwest Washington in a bid to set a world record for the largest simultaneous online Shabbat candle lighting. The free online event begins at 7:10 pm and concludes by 7:25 so people who observe Shabbat free of electronics can participate while maintaining their observance.
To register to get the Zoom password for the Unity Shabbat, visit jewishportland.org/unity-shabbat-2020.
“With the end of Passover (April 16), this is a way for the community to celebrate together,” says JFGP President and CEO Marc Blattner.
“Before the days of ‘physical distancing,’ we took it for granted that Shabbat was a way for families, friends and congregants to get together,” says Community Chaplain Rabbi Barry Cohen. “For the sake of safety and health, we have had to sacrifice what we always assumed was possible.”
“But that does not mean all connections have been lost. We used to look at Zoom as a tool for business. Being an adaptable people, we can now use Zoom for something a little more sacred. That’s why the Unity Shabbat candle lighting is so important. We can use technology to virtually meet .... At the same time, we are fulfilling one of the greatest mitzvot: celebrating Shabbat.”
Even when life is normal and predicable, Shabbat offers a sacred reprieve from work, school and chores. In a time of uncertainty and fear, Shabbat is even more important.
“For the sake of our health and welfare, let’s rest and recharge by reconnecting with our spiritual sides,” says Rabbi Cohen. “Shabbat is security, a safe haven and a sanctuary.”
The Unity Shabbat is being promoted by several congregations and organizations including Congregation Neveh Shalom, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Shaarie Torah and Portland's UnShul.
The Eastside Jewish Commons, which has drawn about 40 participants for weekly Zoom Shabbat candle lightings since March 27, is encouraging participants to participate in the April 17 Unity Shabbat.
EJC Board Chair Mia Birk says the Zoom candle lightings reflect the importance of community. “We’re focused on building and strengthening the local Jewish community by engaging people virtually to reduce feelings of isolation.”
Rabbi Cohen says the world record attempt has the added bonus of “tapping into one of our people’s greatest skills: humor. … Let’s have some fun and set the world record for the largest simultaneous Shabbat candle lighting.”