The Shuvu network of schools in EretzYisrael joined the international Shabbos Project initiated by Rabbi Warren Goldstein, shlita, chief rabbi of South Africa, and kept Shabbos communally this past Shabbos, ParashasNoach.
In preparation for this project, Shuvu brought in the chairman of the newly founded South African Friends of Shuvu, R’ Warren Carless, as well as Mrs. Laureen Shalpid from Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s office, to visit Shuvu and see how to best implement the exciting project within the schools.
Shuvu decided to “start small” this year. Thus the network ran the program in only four of its schools, in five locations, reaching some 600 students and family members. BaruchHashem, following the great success this year, the program will be implemented iy’H next year in all of the Shuvu schools throughout Israel, potentially reaching tens of thousands of Shuvu students and family members!
The four schools included the Shuvu Hadera school with 100 participants, Shuvu Rishon Letzion with 200, Shuvu Hod Hasharon with 250 divided into two locations (Hod Hasharon and Kfar Saba), and the Shuvu Petach Tikva Girls High School with 50 participants.
The International Shabbos Project is coined “Keeping it Together,” whereby communities throughout the world are paired with others, thereby keeping Shabbos together.
Thus the five Shuvu locations were paired up accordingly: Shuvu Girls High School in Petach Tikva “Kept it Together” with Torah Academy Girls High in Johannesburg, the Shuvu Rishon Letzion School “Kept it Together” with Shuvu Hadera, and Shuvu Hod Hasharon kept it with Shuvu families from Kfar Saba. Approximately 600 Shuvu students and family members participated in the Shabbos Project and kept a halachic Shabbos!
The international project as set up by Rabbi Goldstein included communal hafrashaschallah on Thursday night or Friday morning, seudosShabbos together, and a musical havdalah and melavehmalkah.
Shuvu implemented the program for families who lived in walking distance from the schools. Some walked over 25 minutes several times over Shabbos!
The Shuvu Petach Tikva students were hosted by chareidi families and ate one meal with their hosts. The powerful experience made many later say that they’d like that kind of lifestyle for themselves…
The Shuvu Rishon Letzion School was zocheh to have the city’s Chief Rabbi Harav Yehuda Dovid Wolpe, shlita, participate in the Shabbos. The ravdavened with the crowd on Friday night, gave a moving derashah before Ma’ariv, and gave his berachah to all the emotional Shuvu families who participated in the project.
The project within Shuvu was coordinated and run by its school rabbis. Two years ago, Shuvu began placing kiruvrabbanim within its schools, who have been greatly intensifying the kiruv of the students and their parents, and for all practical purposes serving as a kehillahrav for the families of the Shuvu school with wonderful success.
Besides the Shuvu staff members though, professional kiruv lecturers and singers were also invited who addressed the Shuvu participants throughout Shabbos and touched them deeply. During the Shabbosseudos, the families enjoyed the zemiros, the divreiTorah, and just having seudosShabbos together. Not only was Shabbos an unfamiliar concept to many of them, but so was simply dining together as families, which they all felt strengthened their family ties. On motzaeiShabbos, the schools held melavehmalkas with live musical entertainment, refreshments, and much dancing, adding to the special feelings.
The response to the Shabbos was simply overwhelming. Beginning with the hafrashaschallah, the parents and students kept on showing their appreciation for arranging the marvelous spiritual experience. “They have such thirst for Yiddishkeit,” said Shuvu Rishon Letzion Rav Arye Ettinger, “and it was tremendous that Shuvu was able to provide them with such an experience.”
Rabbi Chaim Arousi, school rabbi of Shuvu Petach Tikva, reported that the girls from his school have not stopped telling him how much they were influenced by the inspirational weekend. “They told me that this Shabbos gave them the kochos to continue being shomerShabbos in the future as well.”
The parents were also amazed at the project’s success. One Hod Hasharon mother, Mrs. Avital Yehudai, who has become frum thanks to Shuvu, wrote the following to Rabbi Mordechai Butterman, director of Shuvu’s school rabbis project: “You all have many zechuyos. It was simply a tremendous KiddushHashem! The hafrashaschallah was stunning! Seeing the chiloni mothers weeping emotionally, saying Amen, davening from their inner self was just sheer pleasure… The Shabbos ended with much singing and dancing. The parents were all so excited that they just did not want to go home… I am certain that many families gained considerably from this Shabbos which brought the light of Shabbos into homes where it was not previously enjoyed… I am envious of you that you are zocheh to be mikarev so many Jews to AvinuShe’baShamayim! And lastly, on a personal note illustrating the strong effect the Shabbos had: my (not-yet-frum) husband left his cellphone next to his bed over Shabbos and not once did he touch it!”
Chief Rabbi Goldstein also stated his excitement and great satisfaction in having the program implemented within Shuvu and is already looking forward to next year’s special Shabbos which, b’ezrasHashem, will touch many more Shuvu neshamos.