On one recent Friday night, the people sitting at some 80 long tables in Hangar 11 of the Tel Aviv Port made kiddush.
Then they made history.
In a “true show of Jewish unity and community spirit,” White City Shabbat, an independent organization that brings a Jewish spirit to a secular city, sponsored a mega-meal that was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest Shabbat dinner” ever.
The total count: 2,226 people of every age and every religious and political bent. With a waiting list of more than 3,000, the dinner – which featured 800 bottles of wine, 80 bottles of vodka, 2,000 challah rolls, 1,800 pieces of chicken and 1,000 pieces of beef – was sold out for two weeks.
In the seats at the June 13 event, which was co-sponsored by Chabad and a wide range of religious, political and other organizations, were many prominent members of the Jewish community. Among them: Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, Israeli basketball legend Tal Brody and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
The dinner conformed both to Jewish law (all the food was kosher) and the regulations of the Guinness certifiers (everyone had to be seated and served within five minutes, the dinner had to last an hour).
At 11 p.m. that night, Pravin Patel, a Guinness adjudicator who flew in from London for the event, ruled that White City Shabbat had established a record. “This is my first time visiting Israel and experiencing a Shabbat dinner,” Patel announced. “It has been officially amazing.”
“The jubilation in the room when Guinness World Records announced the official results was palpable,” White City Shabbat co-director Deborah Danan said in a statement. “We are witnessing the transformation of Tel Aviv as being the new capital for Jews — not just for those with professional impetuses but also for those who want to see the revival in Jewish life continue. Shabbat shouldn’t just be in the domain of the religious.”
White City Shabbat (whitecityshabbat.com), which calls itself “a portal for Jewish life in Tel Aviv,” organizes a series of educational events during the years, and matches up hosts and guests for Shabbat meals.
Those Shabbat meals are on a smaller, more traditional scale.