Online, a virtual congregation rises to greet the Shabbat queen
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Sing before your supper

Online, a virtual congregation rises to greet the Shabbat queen

Shabbat UNPLUGGED brings Israeli artists on Zoom and Facebook live for an abbreviated Kabbalat Shabbat service

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Shabbat UNPLUGGED invites Israelis to come out on their balconies on Fridays at 5 p.m., to welcome the Sabbath together (Courtesy Israeli Associations of Community Centers)
Shabbat UNPLUGGED invites Israelis to come out on their balconies on Fridays at 5 p.m., to welcome the Sabbath together (Courtesy Israeli Associations of Community Centers)

Israelis have been singing from their balconies and gathering in their doorways to greet Shabbat during the course of the coronavirus. On Wednesday night, thousands took their Ma Nishtana questions outside, at 8:30 p.m., for a countrywide seder experience.

Some of this has been impromptu, other balcony gatherings have been organized.

One of the official initiatives is Shabbat UNPLUGGED, connecting Israelis to Shabbat through the Israeli Associations of Community Centers (otherwise known as the matnasim) and JCC Global.

On each Friday afternoon, over the last month, listeners could head to a Facebook livestream or sign on to the live Zoom event, to hear one of several Israeli musicians sing several Kabbalat Shabbat songs.

“Shabbat is a way to tie the Israeli community to an ethos,” said Dr. Ruth Kabessa Abramzon, who created the initiative at the start of the coronavirus. “It’s something in our identity, it comes every week and if we learn how to enjoy its opportunities — it doesn’t mean everyone has to become religious, but it can be the thing that joins us — it’s part of the national timeline.”

This Friday’s Shabbat UNPLUGGED will include singer Narkis, for the 5 p.m. event.

נרקיס ואיתי לוי בערוץ 24

חג כשר שמח יקרים שלי שנזכה לצאת לחירות עולם מכל מה שהכרנו עד היום למציאות שהיא אחדות ושלום לנו ולעולם כולו ואין לי ספק בכלל שהקב ״ה יצילינו גם הפעם הזו ….אוהבת בלב נרקיסאיתי לוי – העמוד הרשמי ערוץ 24 ארבל תקשורת – Arbel Communication

פורסם על ידי ‏נרקיס Narkis‏ ב- יום שלישי, 7 באפריל 2020

“Come out to the balcony in your white shirts, bring candles and good energy,” states the flyer that has been distributed by Facebook, email and WhatsApp.

It’s also a good idea to sign up beforehand, said Kabessa Abramzon, as each Zoom event has had more than 1,000 subscribers.

“In Zoom, you have more of a communal feel,” she said,

The idea is a kind of Kabbalat Shabbat lite, with each artist singing a few songs, ones that touch upon hope amid the situation, finishing up with Shabbat classics, such as “Lecha Dodi” and “Shalom Aleichem,” and inviting listeners to go out to their balconies to light Sabbath candles.

“We want to bring together every part of the nation, everyone should feel part of the Israeli family,” said Kabessa Abramzon.

Ruth Kabessa Abramzon, who created the Shabbat UNPLUGGED initiative to bring Israelis together at the start of the Sabbath, during the coronavirus (Courtesy Moki Schvartz)

Some of what Kabessa Abramzon is working on right now came from her own experiences during the 2006 Lebanon war, when she was running a matnas in Hatzor Haglilit, the northern town where she was raised.

At the time, she had to offer different kinds of activities and gatherings in order for people to survive the stress and anxiety.

“Everyone wants to feel a part of a community, particularly in times like these,” she said. “It gives us all a boost.”

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