Radiating Out: Shabbat Hits the Road
Since 2008, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan has encouraged the community to welcome Shabbat not with a bang, but with a "Shabbang."
Thousands of people have come together on Friday evenings to break bread with friends, family, and neighbors. Shabbat Shabbang and Shabbat Shabbang Jr. dinners feature gourmet dinners, Shabbat rituals, and entertainment in a warm, welcoming environment.
The goals are many, but first and foremost, Shabbat Shabbang seeks to provide those without a Jewish community or Shabbat practices a chance to learn and connect with others. It encourages them to build relationships with others they may know only peripherally, if at all.
"People enjoy the pathways created here," says Sarah-Kay Lacks, director of Shabbat Shabbang programming. It has brought together groups that "hadn't been doing anything remotely Jewish or religious. We built our own cohort, and are building new communities as well."
Because the JCC's board chair, Alice Gottesman, understood the power of Shabbat to affect one's life and Jewish practice, we've been able to nourish our own community with the wonders of Shabbat Shabbang and also to "take the show on the road." Since 2015, Shabbat Shabbang Jr. has brought the Shabbat spirit to JCCs in Boston, Washington DC, and Orlando.
In May 2015, representatives of these JCCs came to New York to experience Shabbat Shabbang Jr. in action. Lacks then visited each site and trained their staff on-site.
"Shabbat Shabbang Jr. has been a great way to bring people into the building in a low-barrier way," says Lauren Dworkin, of the Bender JCC of Greater Washington. "The opportunity to provide more of a Shabbat experience, to up the level of everything, was really enticing."
Midge Merlin, director of Family Engagement and Jewish Life at the Orlando JCC, says Shabbat Shabbang Jr. has "changed the way we do Shabbat. Adults thank us for doing something that's not only focused on the kids— these are sophisticated evenings for adults as well."
Shabbat Shabbang Jr. is just one ehatcher-godymple of the JCC's ability to have an impact outside our walls.
During the past decade, the generosity and leadership of philanthropists have been able to help extend the reach of some of our signature programs. The Edmond J. Safra Parkinson's Wellness Program, which began as a partnership between NYU's Movement Disorder Clinic and the JCC, has now serves Boston; Greater Washington; Tampa, FL; and Evanston, IL. Adaptations, a social, vocational, and recreational program for young adults with disabilities, has been replicated in Allentown, PA; aspects of it serve as models for dozens of other agencies. The Jewish Journey Project, an innovative approach to Jewish education, has left its "fingerprint" on close to a dozen communities. The ReelAbilities Film Festival hosts festivals in 20 cities, portraying stories of those with disabilities on screen and allowing communities to understand the strengths, challenges, and lives of people living with disabilities.
Dava Schub, chief program officer at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, says, "We're proud that through our work and relationships around the country, we offer the potential to impact Jewish life that knows (almost) no bounds."