Baltimore, MD - Oct 20, 2018 - One of the best-known quotes about Shabbat is from the secular Jewish author and thinker, Achad Ha’am (the pen name of Asher Ginsberg). He famously said, “More than Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” Whatever did he mean?

One of the biggest challenges we face today is the challenge of providing families (and especially younger Jews) with a value proposition that places Jewish identity in a positive light. What is the difference between Judaism and universalism? What do we have to offer that is unique and worth passing on from generation to generation (Mi Dor L’Dor)?

I think Achad Ha’am understood that the key to maintaining Jewish identity and Jewish values is Jewish family life. Notwithstanding the many various forms and dimensions of Jewish family configurations in 2018, some things have not changed. Creating “sacred time,” providing families with rituals and reasons for being together has never been more important. Basic communal and family values are under attack every day and everywhere we turn. Shabbat provides us with one of the most enduring, deeply meaningful ways to promote family time and family engagement.

Some modern Jews today describe Shabbat as a time for “unplugging.” Unplugging from social media, from technology, from the many things over which we obsess during the other six days of the week. Setting aside time on Shabbat and making it “holy” by dedicating oneself to separating from other things that preoccupy us during the week can transform one’s perspectives. We gain control, objectivity, a sense of deeper purpose. We become more attuned to our own and each other’s human/psychological/philosophical needs.

The Baltimore Shabbat Project plugs into this sensitivity. We don’t tell anyone how to observe Shabbat, but we enthusiastically and emotionally urge people to create a sense of holy time on Shabbat. For some it is a family dinner. For others it is a weekly visit to a synagogue. For some it is participation in a local chavurah or potluck Connectors event. Many of us search the Internet for inspiring information on the weekly Torah portion, others listen to podcasts or online classes that enrich our understanding of Torah, Jewish philosophy, Jewish history, Jewish community needs, etc.

One significant way that many families enhance their appreciation of Shabbat is through baking or purchasing special Challah loaves for the Shabbat meals. To encourage this, Baltimore has become one of the premier communities in the world to sponsor Challah Baking programs in conjunction with the world-wide observance of The Shabbat Project. This program, which began several years ago in South Africa, has spread to many communities in many countries. Nowhere has it achieved the success in spreading a sense of unity and common cause as it has in Baltimore.

The highlight of our annual Shabbat Project programming is the Challah Bake project. Last year these programs were held at Pimlico Racetrack. This year, on October 24 and 25, the Challah Baking project will be held at the Owings Mills JCC.

●       On Wednesday, 10/24, The Family Challah Bake & More will be held for adults and children.  From 7pm-8pm, families will join together, learn how to make challah (with a very simple and user-friendly recipe) and take away hints and ideas to enrich their Shabbat observance. There is no requirement for any particular affiliation, background, history of Jewish commitment or knowledge level.

●       On Thursday, 10/25, The Great Pink Challah Bake will be held. Women and girls will bake challah in conjunction with Shasharet and Myriad,raising awareness about breast cancer and local education/prevention strategies. BRCA screening will be available. Doors open at 6pm for registration, a PINK dessert reception, time to socialize and time to collect breast cancer awareness resources.  The Challah Bake project will begin promptly at 7:30pm.

●       Shabbat (Vayeira) follows on Friday, 10/26 and Saturday, 10/27.  Will you be joining in? Maybe this is a time to check out one of your local synagogues. Maybe you can plan a
Shabbat meal with others on your block or in your neighborhood.  How about planning to study with someone?  Perhaps take time to reflect on what Shabbat can mean for you or your family…Let us know about your plans via the website!

●       Registration for any of these events can be made online at

The international theme for this year’s Shabbat Project is Stop Doing, Start Being. I think this is what Achad Ha’am had in mind when he talked about Shabbat keeping the Jews. In our fast-paced, super-hyper-political-pressured-stressful world, we Jews need to spend some time “being” Jewish and the best way to be Jewish is together with other Jews, whether those other Jews are our family members, our neighbors, our friends, or even people we just happen to meet at a community event.

Please join us! Unplug! Click here and register to participate! Let this be the year that you enhance your Friday night dinner or Saturday lunch and transform it into a Shabbat table with freshly baked challah, with special guests or extended family. As they said in the “old country,” ENJOY!