A weekend of festivities at the Aish Essex house helped the local community come together in the spirit of the day and of the entire Shabbat UK event.
Rabbi Mendy Brukirer, Aish Essex’s director, hosted a five-course dinner for over 70 people on Friday night with seven even staying for the duration of Saturday to mark an entire Shabbat together.
More than 350 events took place from Belfast to Brighton as part of the Chief Rabbi’s initiative, which involved roughly 40% of the little over 250,000 UK Jews.
Guests stayed as late as half past midnight, playing games and singing songs as the Chief Rabbi’s Shabbat UK scheme hit north-east London.
Rabbi Brukirer said: “It was really nice to see people who were really connecting. Being around on Shabbat is in and of itself special, but people actually connecting with their communities is even greater.
“Once upon a time people connected via synagogue. That doesn’t seem to be the way young people connect any more today.
“Sadly, people don’t have communities anymore. A synagogue is not just about prayer, it’s also a big part of a community – people connecting with each other.
“What we try to do here is have that virtual community, one that doesn’t rely on a synagogue.per se, and that’s what we saw on Friday night.
The target demographic of these events is young professionals, and the rabbi was pleased to see many faces, old and new, from Essex and elsewhere, to celebrate the day of rest.
He said: “In Hampstead they had 55 people come for their Friday night programme. I think there was a waiting list too!
“What we did here in Essex was completely different. We had a team of people – Marcus Mendleson, Max Persell and Jonathan Bendon – who planned every detail.
“We didn’t have room in our house so we had to get a marquee!”
Mr Bendon said: “I believe Shabbat UK is important as it is for all types of Jews and ages to come to together to share ideas and conversations to create friendships and relationships with people to make other feel better about themselves.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “We have just had a most extraordinary Shabbat experience. And, I’d like to thank everyone involved – Rabbis, Rebbetzens, Chairs of Shuls, heads of ShabbatUK committees, volunteers, literally thousands of people across the country – who have ensured that ShabbatUK this year has been such a success.
“We’ve just got incredible communities and that’s thanks to all of you. I have been so moved and overwhelmed in seeing the planning, the execution, the activities, the programmes for so many hundreds and hundreds of people around the country.
“Toda Rabah, thank you so very much. Now, let’s look forward to the next Shabbat. After all, there are another 51 Shabbatot in every year.”