Jerusalem Gets Very Different Kind of Kabbalat Shabbat

Sabbath With Mixed Prayer, Beer and (Gasp!) Dancing

Shabbat in Jerusalem: Hundreds are gathering every week for Kabbalat Shabbat at a new venue in Jerusalem.
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Shabbat in Jerusalem: Hundreds are gathering every week for Kabbalat Shabbat at a new venue in Jerusalem.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published July 22, 2013.
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The Orthodox people in attendance were appreciative for the timing — just before the Sabbath instead of on the Sabbath, especially so that they can attend (otherwise they wouldn’t as Orthodox Jews don’t attend musical performances on the Sabbath).

Educator Millie Eisenberg said that she didn’t mind that the event was a world away from the Orthodox Kabbalat Shabbat she is used to, commenting: “But I wouldn’t like it to be on Shabbat with music, so this is a nice way of letting everyone enjoy it together.”

How does Eisenberg feel about it taking place in a venue that has become a hub for shopping on Shabbat? She is generally against Jerusalem businesses opening on the Sabbath, but makes an exception for this venue. “It’s not only that it’s outside of the city center; it’s also that it’s entertainment not shopping,” she said. This is the position of Ginot Ha’Ir, which wants Jerusalem to become more accommodating of Sabbath recreation that violates Orthodox law — but not to allow it to become a normal business day.

There were no Haredim in attendance, but apart from that the religious spectrum was broad. However, the ethnic mix didn’t reflect Jerusalem’s diversity. There was lots of Hebrew, English and French spoken among the people in attendance, but there were few Russian-speakers. Ethiopian Jews were conspicuously absent. And there was far heavier representation of Ashkenazim than Sephardim.

“There’s no such thing as a secular Sephardi,” insisted Shmuel Aaranov, a Sephardi taxi driver who was there for his mother and children’s sake. He doesn’t wear a yarmulke, but believes that Jewish rites should be observed the Orthodox way.

“For my mother it’s nice and it is for my kids, but it’s not my way, which is the way of the Shulchan Aruch,” he said, referring to the compendium of Jewish law.

He then gave a look of disbelief, as he exclaimed: “Beer with Kaddish!”

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay @forward.com


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