About 540 synagogues are expected to participate in this year’s Shabbat Across America program. The number of participating shuls has held steady through the past five years in the 520 to 590 range. Including the 17 new locations added this year, the National Jewish Outreach’s Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenbaum said, the program has been held at 2,011 locations since it began 13 years ago.
The program, he said, is not geared toward regular shul-goers but rather toward Jews who usually show up at synagogue only for the High Holidays – if at all.
“It brings people back,” Rosenbaum said of the program. “It invigorates the shul. It gives the shul something to focus on.”
The program includes a Friday night meal in the synagogue. NJOP asks the participants to set up tables as at home and name table captains to spark conversation and find out who the newcomers are and explore ways to keep them coming back.
“Some people walk into shul and at best they get a siddur or a tallis. There’s no real effort,” he said. “One of the key components [of the program] is people are invited back. It links them into the shul and the community.”
As of Wednesday, local shuls participating are Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood; Cong. Beth Tikvah, New Milford; Temple Avodat Shalom, River Edge; Temple Sinai of Bergen County, Tenafly; Jewish Community Center of Paramus; Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel; Temple Beth Sholom, Fair Lawn; and Temple Israel and Community Center, Ridgewood.
For more information on Shabbat Across America, visit www.njop.org.