The Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine was one of more than 230 Jewish Federations of North America to host a Shabbat of Love event at sundown on Jan. 19.

“Shabbat of Love was the brainchild of several individuals and organizations, all sharing one common sentiment, that we need a moment to love who we are, to love being Jewish – secular, religious, just Jewish, traditional, just figuring it out, Jewish-adjacent, whatever it might be,” said Molly Curren Rowles, executive director of the Jewish Community Alliance. “Shabbat is a time to rest, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and to be together with family and celebrate all that it means to be Jewish. Tonight is about getting together for positive reasons and in a joyful way.”

About 100 people from southern Maine attended the free event at the alliance’s home on outer Congress Street in Portland.

“It’s such a good time to have this, to have the community pull together,” said Marcia Westin of Portland. “And good food always brings us together.”

Sonya Rabb of Bread & Blossom and Rebecca Schilling of Maine Wedding Provisions served a vegetarian dinner: challah still warm from the oven, winter squash and roots soup with white beans, roasted carrots with almonds and harissa aioli, and kale salad with citrus Dijon dressing. Exile Bakery contributed rugelach for dessert.

While some guests celebrate Shabbat weekly and sang in Hebrew by heart, Shabbat of Love was intentionally welcoming to newcomers, with song sheets, quick explanations and Hebrew-to-English translations provided throughout the brief program.


Rabbi Andy Bachman invited children – of which there were about a dozen – to help him with the lighting of the Shabbat candles. “In a world that is difficult to bear at times, it’s important to take a breath and bring more light into the world,” he said.

“We’re happy to be around other families enjoying a peaceful Shabbat,” said Karli Efron of Portland, who brought her daughters Adele and Miriam.

Likewise, Jess Press of Saco, with her husband Natan and 3-year-old son Zev, said, “We’re here to be part of the community and connect.”

More than 30,000 people across North America participated in Shabbat of Love gatherings and were encouraged to share memories at #ShabbatofLove. Much of the media buzz was focused on New York City, where a team of bakers broke the world record for longest challah (35 feet, 2 inches).

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at

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