I love Shabbat!! Every time another Friday rolls around and I remember that Shabbat is nearly here, I am so grateful that our culture has this concept of dedicated rest ingrained in it’s core. I think Shabbat is an amazing way to connect to our Judaism because it can be a completely different practice for each of us.

I have grown up in the Melbourne Jewish community my entire life. I have also been privileged to spend significant time in the US and other Jewish communities around the world, embarking on my own Jewish music and identity journey. It is an incredible feeling to be able to feel at home celebrating Shabbat in communities from Singapore to Texas, New Zealand to New York.

One thing I have learnt is that, especially in our community, people often have a preconceived notion, and therefore prejudice against, what they have been taught Shabbat ‘has’ to be. I often meet young people who don’t like to engage with Shabbat, because they have grown up believing that Shabbat meant attending the same shule as their parents, the same monotonous prayers they don’t really understand, and practices they don’t keep.

I started Barefoot Shabbat in October 2015 because I love Jewish music, and all I want to do on a Friday night to bring in Shabbat is sit around and sing with my friends! Barefoot Shabbat is an inclusive, all ages musical Kabbalat Shabbat experience, held once every two months in Melbourne. The Kabbalat Shabbat service itself is always evolving, as is the community who attend it. There is no underlying ideology or organisation – Barefoot Shabbat is all about the people who attend. My favourite part is the music, of course, but another incredible element that has developed is the hours of schmoozing! I sometimes have to drop some not-too-subtle hints to get people to go home – and that to me, is the sign of a great Shabbat.

Being able to connect to a Shabbat experience with other people in our community is something many of us in the younger generation are missing. But by taking this holy day and making it our own, we can find a fresh connection that is meaningful to each of us.

I am a firm believer that there are many different ways to be Jewish, and for me, music is key. By sharing my dream of Barefoot Shabbat and making it a reality, I feel honoured to be creating a new community where people can share their own Jewish connections and passions. I am looking forward to many more years of Barefoot Shabbat and many more hours of schmoozing!

To join the Barefoot Shabbat community, please like our page on Facebook! – facebook.com/barefootshabbat/

Article by Author/s
Shannyn Gelbart
Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Shannyn has been singing since she could talk. She studied music and performance through to University and completed an Advanced Diploma in Sound Engineering at RMIT. Shannyn has been working with communities throughout Australia and beyond since mid 2013 to run and create programming, lead Shabbat and holiday services and connect people of all ages with Judaism. She founded the Meaningful Music Movement in 2015 to provide workshops and events that engage people to Judaism through music and Barefoot Shabbat events. She is currently studying primary teaching and completing a new album to be released later this year.

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