Observing the Sabbath -- setting aside one day a week for rest, reverence and contemplation -- has been a central tenet of Judaism for thousands of years.
Some rabbis and other respected thinkers have even speculated the tradition of keeping the Sabbath holy has played a key role in sustaining the survival of the Jewish people during terrible times across the ages.
A special event that will be held at the Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive, is intended to highlight the deep meaning of the Sabbath -- or Shabbat -- to Jews. The center will be host Jan. 31-Feb. 1 to its third annual "Shabbaton," a daylong marathon of Jewish prayer, celebration and learning.
"Traditional Jewish people spend the Sabbath in rest, prayer and living in the present. That's what we'll be doing, in a more structured fashion," said Paul Friedman, a center member who is coordinating the event.
"We're not as religiously intense as we used to be. It takes a lower-priority role. But by really putting a lot of energy into one Shabbat, we give people the experience they would have had years ago, when the synagogue was the center of community life."
The Shabbaton will begin with an all-music worship service at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, featuring Shiray Shabbat -- the center's musical ensemble and choir -- and the choir from Temple Beth Sholom in Topeka.
Rabbi Lawrence Karol of the Topeka temple and Rabbi Scott White of the Lawrence congregation will both play guitar, sing and collaborate on a sermon.
Following the service, Jay Lewis, executive director of the Kansas University Hillel Foundation, 940 Miss., will provide a Jewish improvisational comedy program.
White will lead a traditional worship service and Torah study session from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 1.
A series of 15 one-hour sessions, led by center members and focusing on different aspects of Jewish life, are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The schedule of sessions includes: "Jews Who Rock," a look at the music of Jewish rock 'n' roll stars; "The Flavor of Yiddish"; "Jewish Humor"; and "How Buddhist Mindfulness Complements Judaism."
The Shabbaton will end Feb. 1 with snacks, socializing and a program of Israeli songs and dancing, followed by a short worship service.
Those who are interested in learning about Jewish life, faith and traditions are welcome to attend the Shabbaton events, all of which are free to students and center members.
There will be a requested donation of $10 for nonmembers who want to participate in the Feb. 1 learning sessions.
A catered lunch will be served from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 1, at a cost of $10 per person, payable in advance. The cut-off time to reserve a spot is Sunday night.
For more information about the Shabbaton, call the center at 841-7636 or e-mail questions to email@example.com.