Members of Ridgefield’s Jewish community (and of surrounding communities) will gather at Congregation Shir Shalom, 46 Peaceable Street, for a display of Jewish revitalization and unity Friday, March 9.

Conceived and organized by the National Jewish Outreach Program (now NJOP) in 1997, Shabbat Across America and Canada represents a united effort by the entire Jewish community to renew interest in the fourth of the Ten Commandments — observing a weekly day of rest (“Shabbat” in Hebrew).

Congregation Shir Shalom will be one of approximately 700 synagogues across the continent that will simultaneously open their doors to practicing and non-practicing Jews alike, so they may join together to experience and rejoice in a traditional Shabbat service and festive meal.

Led by Rabbi David Reiner and Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray, along with special musical guest Beth Styles, attendees will experience a traditional Shabbat dinner and an interactive Friday night Shabbat service with all the rituals explained. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with Tot Shabbat (especially for families with children under 6 years old), followed by a traditional, vegetarian, Shabbat dinner. An interactive Friday night Shabbat service (with all the rituals explained) will take place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“At a time when we witness symbols of hatred, ignorance, and antisemitism in our schools and our town, Shabbat Across America is an opportunity to learn about Judaism and the messages of peace, love and inclusion that are central to our faith and practice,” commented Rabbi David Reiner of Congregation Shir Shalom. “We look forward to welcoming and celebrating Shabbat with people from all faith backgrounds and inspiring our community to become even more welcoming and inclusive.”

“We just cannot accept the common perception that North American Jewry is an endangered species,” commented Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder and director of NJOP. “Shabbat Across America and Canada is an exciting and modern way of reintroducing friends and family members to a practice that has been with, and unified, our people for more than 3,300 years, and which we trust will be with us for at least 3,300 more.”

NJOP hopes that a memorable and rewarding experience at Shabbat Across America and Canada will infuse thousands of non-practicing Jews with a sense of a greater commitment to Judaism. Of the 5.2 million North American Jews, one million are unaffiliated with any Jewish organizations, and 1.2 million are marginally affiliated, meaning they rarely attend synagogue and have little to do with Jewish life.

Designed to teach a generation of unaffiliated Jews about the beauty and significance of the Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat Across America and Canada is the first nationally orchestrated program to appeal to members of all major Jewish denominations. It is also the first and only program aimed at uniting Jews across the United States and Canada through one single event. Shabbat Across America and Canada will take place in every city where there is a Jewish presence — from major Jewish geographical centers, such as New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, to cities with smaller Jewish populations such as Alexandria, La., Nashua, N.H. and Portland, Ore. Congregation Shir Shalom is taking the program a step further by welcoming guests from all faith backgrounds.

NJOP was established in 1987 by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, and has become one of the world’s largest and most successful Jewish outreach organizations. NJOP offers free programs at 5,032 locations across North America and in 41 countries worldwide. Through programs such as Shabbat Across America and Canada and Read Hebrew America and Canada, NJOP has successfully reached 1,615,865 North American Jews, and engaged them in Jewish life.

Located at 46 Peaceable Street in Ridgefield, Congregation Shir Shalom includes more than 300 families from Ridgefield, Lewisboro, Redding, South Salem, and beyond. Formed in 2016 through the union of Temple Shearith Israel of Ridgefield and Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem, Congregation Shir Shalom is an innovator in Jewish programming and education, and was one of five synagogues across the country to be recognized by NJOP for their communal Chanukah Menorah lighting on Main Street this past December. This is their third year participating in the Shabbat Across America and Canada program.