A deep phenomenon lies behind the momentum created by ShabbatUK. As a national coordinator for Chief Rabbi Mirvis’ initiative for two years, I witnessed communities coming together over Shabbat with a passion that has rarely been seen before. Not only here, but across international parallel projects.
Many Jews in Britain do not consider themselves Shabbat observant. But they aren’t non-Shabbat observant either.
So many of us keep something of Shabbat – a Friday night meal, Shabbat candles, or mark it in some other special way.
To many young Jews their parents’ habits appear contradictory. Often a word like ‘hypocritical’ is used. But I believe they are something far more profound and beautiful.
When Polish and Russian Jews migrated to UK shores 100 years ago, they faced a frightening choice. Not to work on Saturday meant being unemployed by Monday. To feed your family often meant giving up Shabbat day. But our great-grandparents didn’t give up on our heritage. If they could not keep Shabbat day, they could still do Friday night. It was sacred.
The beauty of Shabbat would still glow for as long as it could.
The result is many of us have inherited an almost nocturnal religion. Seder nights, Chanukah candles and Friday nights survived in us.
But I believe something else came with it – the passion of our great-grandparents. And it lay dormant until now.
ShabbatUK seems to have unlocked a sleeping spirit within us. When released, we create a communal vibrance and energy we never knew we had.
I believe our secret latent energy isn’t a just a whisper from 100 years ago, but is likely the making of millennia, and may well contain the secret to ignite our communities.