This Friday night is the 26th annual Shabbat Across America and Canada. Jewish Treats is proud to present a history of NJOP’s SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA. Since many people are still concerned about contagion and not yet returning to synagogues for in-person services and events, this year, NJOP is encouraging people to celebrate Shabbat Across America and Canada at Home.

SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA was an evolutionary expansion and enhancement of the 1980 program (brilliantly named by Jesse Cogan) as Turn Friday Night into Shabbos (TFNIS), that was offered at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan. For many Jews, it was their first taste of Shabbat. For others, it was the first positive, joyous experience that they had in their Jewish lives.

With the launch of NJOP in 1987, TFNIS was coordinated nationally and internationally through 1996, by NJOP. In 1997, it was renamed SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA as part of a new marketing campaign.

According to Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, NJOP’s Founder and Director, SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA is “probably the greatest ‘rescue mission’ ever mounted to attract Jews who are being lost to assimilation… Fortunately, the antidote to this dreaded affliction is at hand. The Almighty has given his children a great gift – it is called Shabbat.”

The initial SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA campaigns featured ads appearing on buses, bus shelters, subway placards and billboards, and in publications such as Time, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and 20 major North American daily newspapers. It was also marketed in a robust set of radio ads that were aired across America. Over the years, NJOP also produced several videos to promote Shabbat, including “I’ve Got a Feeling” which to date has close to 900,000 views on YouTube, and another video produced in 2015. In 2016, as the U.S. presidential campaign season began, NJOP announced Rabbi Buchwald’s faux “presidential campaign”, representing the Shabbat Party to promote that election year’s SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA event. A CommUNITY SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA was later developed encouraging various institutions in the same city to run a joint program, as was SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA At Home, for those celebrating Shabbat at home.

Since its inception, over 1.1 million have attended SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA programs in thousands of synagogues of all denominations, Hillels and outreach centers on college campuses, military bases, JCCs and Jewish Federations and, in Moishe Houses. It has been offered in all 50 U.S. states, eight Canadian provinces, and in Israel, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand and Qatar.

Rabbi Buchwald proudly notes that there is no “non-holiday” that is on more Jewish calendars than the annual observance of SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA. That makes sense, given the importance of Jewish unity, identity and Shabbat. Join us!

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