Thousands to take part in communal ‘Shabbat for Israel’

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Thousands to take part in communal ‘Shabbat for Israel’

United Synagogue and Office of Chief Rabbi ask UK communities to celebrate 8-9 March with guest speakers and themed events

Shabbat for Israel
Shabbat for Israel

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is inviting Jewish communities across the UK to designate the Shabbat which falls on 8-9 March 2024 (Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel) as a ‘Shabbat for Israel’.

They are asked to welcome special guest speakers and organise themed events as an expression of solidarity with the people of Israel, who continue to confront the horror of war and to agonise over the well-being of the hostages still in captivity.

‘Shabbat for Israel’ is expected to be amongst the UK’s largest displays of support for the people of Israel since October 7th, with tens of thousands of people in cities around the UK joining together in prayer and solidarity.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Pic: Sam Churchill and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

The Chief Rabbi initially wrote to United Synagogue community leaders and those of the many independent communities under his auspices in January to recommend the idea.

The response to date has been enthusiastic, with many communities already inviting speakers and planning large events.

It is expected that the Shabbat will provide an opportunity for communities to welcome a variety of speakers from Israel for the occasion and to associate themselves with some of the many solidarity projects that have been launched in recent weeks.

These have included for example, the Board of Deputies ‘adopting’ a hostage campaign, donating Sifrei Torah to Israel, community twinning initiatives, the ‘Taste of Memory’ campaign, which tells the story of lives lost through their favourite recipes, and many more.

The Chief Rabbi’s Centre for Community Excellence will be providing guidance and financial support to communities, to help them organise the most impactful programme possible.

Announcing the initiative, the Chief Rabbi said: “In these exceptionally trying times, our communities are united by our deep connection to Israel and our profound desire to see the Jewish State exist in peace and security. As part of our global Jewish ‘mishpocha’, so many of us identify strongly with the challenges Israel currently faces and are keen to express our love and solidarity with our brothers and sisters there in a meaningful way. Shabbat for Israel will provide a wonderful opportunity to do just that. I encourage all who are able, to take part in whatever way they can.”

The United Synagogue, who are working in partnership with the Office of the Chief Rabbi to deliver the project, have begun work to support their member communities to make the most of Shabbat for Israel.

Barnaby Nemko, United Synagogue director of community life, said: “Shabbat for Israel will be an incredible opportunity to bring together our communities in a show of love, commitment and unwavering support for the People of Israel. We believe that now is the time to once again stand up for our friends, family and klal (whole of) Yisrael at this defining moment, with an expression of achdut (unity) through spending a meaningful Shabbat together praying for peace for all of Israel’s inhabitants”.

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