On Friday afternoon if you happen to be in the Toco Hills neighborhood and think you see Rabbis Ilan Feldman and Dov Foxbrunner of Congregation Beth Jacob waving from the back of a white pickup truck adorned with signs and blasting Jewish music … well, then, that is what you saw.
Call it . . . the Shabbat-mobile.
For the past two weeks, on Friday afternoon, in the hours before Shabbat, neighborhood residents, members of Beth Jacob and other congregations, have stepped out of their doors and, maintaining the appropriate social distancing, waved back as the truck has passed by their homes.
“And G-d willing, intend to do so each Friday we can, providing that it only serves to enhance communal well-being,” Yaakov Haller, a Beth Jacob congregant and an organizer of the effort, told the AJT.
Beth Jacob’s doors are closed, but like congregations throughout Atlanta, the synagogue has put a considerable amount of teaching and other programs online. But not worship services, in keeping with Orthodox tradition.
“Nevertheless, as a community of dedicated Orthodox Jews who strictly adhere to traditional Torah law and do not utilize any form of electronic communication during the 25-hour Shabbat, I began to consider the emotional strain and compounded stress that nearly total separation may place on our resilient neighborhood from sundown Friday evening through Saturday night each week,” Haller said.
“And so in a matter of days, the concept of mobile “Pre-Shabbat Ruach” centering on our beloved (and brave) rabbis slow-rolling through the streets of Toco Hills to gift personalized ‘Good Shabbos / Shabbat Shalom’ wishes and cheer, set to a backdrop of energetic Jewish music, took shape. If circumstances were going to prevent our cohesive congregation from entering Beth Jacob, then a home-delivery version of Beth Jacob throughout the community was vital to ensuring that no one felt alone or forgotten,” Haller said.
Among the signs on the side of the truck is one reading “Though Corona keeps us a safe distance apart, SHABBOS KODESH connects us Heart-to-Heart!!”
But no one person conceives and executes such a plan, and Haller praised several others for their “shared commitment to doing our small part to uplift spirits and keep hope at the forefront of communal consciousness during these uncertain times.”
In addition to Rabbis Feldman and Foxbrunner, the list included Rabbi Yitzchok Tendler, Beth Jacob’s executive director the synagogue’s office staff, and members Avi and Rachel Tate, who provided use of Tate Electric’s truck, generator, diesel and propane fuel and professionally printed banners. And, for good measure, “the unparalleled comradery of families throughout the Toco Hills Jewish community.”
Video provided courtesy of Alisa Haber