By Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D.
Shabbat was created as an eternal gift to the Jewish people, a day when G-d stepped away from the acts of creation or “creative acts.” With festival season upon us, starting with Coachella this weekend, and Burning Man upcoming, we festivalgoers look forward to shared acts of creativity, joy, and celebration. These festivals all go over Shabbat, and what happens to Shabbat during 25 of those hours? Shabbat is there, but do we as festivalgoers have the opportunity to connect to its soulful energy and fellow Jews?
With these questions I reflect upon Sundance, my most recent festival. Amongst the 71,000 festivalgoers, I found a Shabbat oasis that allowed me to unplug from the acts of artists’ creations, and connect soulfully with others and with our ancient spiritual technology of the Sabbath.
Presented by the Avi Chai Foundation, the Alevy Foundation, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and the Jewish Skinny, Sundance’s Shabbat Lounge brought together Jews from all different backgrounds and walks of life. The producer sitting next to me, known for his cult LGBTQ films, remarked that this was his first Shabbat in 40 years, and likely his most meaningful.
The founders of Shabbat Tent, Rabbi Yonah and Rachel Bookstein have an ambitious, and radically hospitable vision, to bring Shabbat Tent to every festival worldwide. For just as these festivals occur, so too does Shabbat. Shabbat Tent drives the harmonious synergy of the two. Why should one have to choose between lighting candles Friday night, eating challah, and rocking out to Beyonce by moonlight or rubbing elbows with Guillermo del Toro?
Often I seek the answer to the soulful question, “what creative acts can bring together the Jewish people to celebrate our eternal gifts while enjoying the gifts of this world?”
The Shabbat Tent is a festivalgoer’s solution to this question.
At its roots, the Shabbat Tent was born at a two-day Phish concert and gained national attention in 2007 when reggae star Matisyahu sought a large-scale Shabbat Tent at Langerado, a music and camping festival in South Florida. By 2015, Shabbat Tent incorporated “digital detox” to festivals, and had opened spaces at Coachella, High Sierra, and Lockn. In 2017, there was a Shabbat Tent at Coachella, High Sierra Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, the Rainbow Gathering, SXSW – and Sundance.
With Shabbat Tent’s ambitious goal of scaling, I imagine a world where every festival will be illuminated by Shabbat candles, wafting aromas of warm challah, and the clinking glasses of wine.
To find Shabbat Tent at Coachella, visit Shabbattent.org.
Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D., co-founder of www.CareerUpNow.org, a national program incubated by University of Florida’s Hillel, is a festivalgoer who loves Shabbat and most things Jewish. Bradley is a graduate of Upstart, a Birthright Israel Fellow, and founder of the City of Beverly Hills’ Entrepreneurship Incubator.