Shabbat in the Park?

Here’s why…Last June, I received the following letter.

Dear Rabbi,

I was driving along 133rd on Friday night, on the way to Home Depot to pick up some things to fix a broken toilet. As I passed Mission, heading east, I saw this crowd of people converging on the park. I slowed down and let a couple dozen people cross the street. While waiting, I asked someone what was happening. When they told me it was a Shabbat service, I was intrigued.

I am Jewish. However, I must confess that I am not very religious. I don’t belong to a synagogue and – quite honestly – that Friday night my thoughts were on overflowing toilets and not Jewish prayers. I didn’t even realize that it was Shabbat…that is how non-religious I am.

However, as I said, I was intrigued. There were A LOT of people there. Something compelled me to pull into the parking lot and come over to the park. A nice woman offered me a chair and a glass of water. I knew a few folks there, but it was a different feeling than I have ever had at a Jewish event. Without meaning to be disrespectful about anything else you do, THIS was joyful.

Then, the service started. And the music. And the celebration. Incredible.

When it was all over, you came up to me, introduced yourself, and said “Shabbat shalom.” You may remember me. I was in shorts, a t-shirt, and said, “Thank you for letting a stranger share in this service.”

So, now I want to tell you…I am not a stranger. I am Jewish. And your congregation helped me realize that on Friday night. Thank you.

P.S. It felt wrong to continue on to Home Depot. So, I went home, told my wife about the experience, lit Shabbat candles for the first time in a decade using votive candles – is that kosher? – and took her out for a lovely, late Shabbat dinner. Again, thank you.


Important Info…  
Q. Location?
A. Gezer Park is located at 133rd and Mission Road, just across from Price Chopper. Our service will be in front of the pavilion that is on the west side of the park, in between the play structure and the bathrooms.

Q. Parking?
A. There are 19 parking spaces on the west end of the park, where our Kabbalat Shabbat service will take place. PLEASE save those spaces for folks who have a handicapped sticker and/or those who may have a more difficult time walking. Everyone else….park across the street in the Price Chopper parking lot.  

Q. Chairs? Water?
A. We ask that folks bring their own stadium/folding chairs or blankets to be comfortable. We will be sitting on the grass, facing the pavilion. We will have a few (just a few) extra folding chairs for those who need them and forgot to bring their own. We will also have a couple of large commercial thermal jugs of water, and cups, if you become thirsty. Our staff will be on hand to help carry chairs and assist you.

Q. Rain?
A. We hope for great weather. As of today, there is a 10% chance of rain. If it does rain, we will hold the same service, just in our building in the chapel. If you are unsure, go to our website (www.bnaijehudah.org) and it will tell you if we are moving the service to our building. We plan on a beautiful, COOL Shabbat night!

Q. Who makes this happen?
A. We are so grateful to Sisterhood for agreeing to underwrite the costs of Shabbat in the Park this year. Their generosity permits us to celebrate in such a grand style. Thank you Sisterhood!