Shabbat Shalom: Say it with a "Shabbat-o-gram"

Screenshot 2020 09 03 At 3 05 57 Pm
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Observing Shabbat at Jewish summer camp is an incredibly powerful experience—from the creative outdoor services to the energetic singing and dancing with friends. So when it was announced that in-person camps would remain closed this summer, one Jewish couple was inspired to replicate a piece of the experience virtually—first for camps and now for synagogues, religious schools, preschools, Hillels, and others in the Jewish community. Rabbi Shayna Golkow of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, California, and her boyfriend Ben Zauzmer, a coder with the Los Angeles Dodgers, created Shabbat-o-Grams. The website keeps people connected virtually by enabling them to create and send digital Shabbat greetings—at no cost—to friends, family, staff, alumni, etc. every Friday. “Ben and I grew up going to Jewish summer camps and loving the experiences we had,” shares Shayna. “Upon hearing the news that camps were going to be virtual all summer, we felt so sad for the campers, staff, and other community members who were missing out on those experiences. We wanted to create something that would help bring people together and make them feel like they were getting to bring the magic of camp home in this virtual world.” While in-person campers might cut cardboard and use markers, tape, and photos to create good wishes and notes of appreciation for Shabbat, Shabbat-o-Gram users digitally choose fonts, add color and text, and upload photos and drawings to customize their greetings to arrive by email. They can even designate Shabbat-o-Grams for entire communities, which are then shared on Instagram with links to those communities’ donation pages.

“We’ve seen some beautiful Shabbat-o-Grams with amazing drawings and collages of friends and family,” shares Ben. “We’ve also seen so many sweet, kind, and supportive messages.” In fact, over 1,000 people from 35 Jewish summer camps have received Shabbat-o-Grams so far. The Friday it launched, Ben awoke to his email filled with requests. “That was a real pinch-yourself-type moment,” he says. “We really had no idea if this would be something that would catch on but we had advertised to every camp letting them know this was available to them. A few came in Monday through Thursday, and then I awoke on Friday before the deadline to my Gmail so filled I had to click to the next page. That never happens.” Since then, the couple has received requests from several synagogues to make Shabbat-o-Grams available to their communities for Shabbat as well as the High Holidays—and that’s exactly what they’re doing. “We have received such nice messages from people letting us know they feel supported by this project,” says Shayna. “We hope that will be the same for congregations and others in the Jewish community who are struggling to keep people engaged and connected in this virtual world.”

Click here to visit the website and start sharing it with your congregation.

Read this article on Shayna, Ben and Shabbat-o-Grams that appeared in the New Jersey Jewish News!

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