White City Shabbat breaks Guinness World Record for largest Shabbat Dinner with 2,226 diners in Tel Aviv

by | Jun 27, 2014 | Other News

White City Shabbat set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Shabbat Dinner ever at the Hangar 11 in the port of Tel Aviv when 2,226 attendees were officially inscribed in the Guinness World Record for the Largest Shabbat Dinner on Friday night June 13. Notable diners included Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, Professor Alan Dershowitz, Ambassador Michael Oren, Israeli basketball legend Tal Brody, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, MK Elazar Stern, and Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo Ron Huldai.

At 11pm, a jubilant crowd cheered as the adjudicator from GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ (GWR), Pravin Patel, announced the final result. Patel, who was flown in from London especially for the occasion, kept the crowd in suspense as he went through the Guinness rules again and reminded everyone that in order to set the record, GWR demanded that a minimum of 1,000 diners must be in attendance. When Patel finally announced that 2,226 diners were included in the record, the crowd erupted in cheers and hollers, before singing “Am Yisrael Chai.”

Patel, who has been an adjudicator for GWR all over the world, said “This is my first time visiting Israel and first time experiencing a Shabbat dinner. It has been ‘officially amazing.’ Congratulations to White City Shabbat and the city of Tel Aviv.”

To make the Guinness World Record Largest Shabbat Dinner happen, it took almost a year of preparation, 60 days of crowdsourced fundraising, 800 bottles of wine, 80 bottles of vodka, 50 bottles of whiskey, 2,000 challah rolls, 80 long tables, 1,800 pieces of chicken, 1,000 pieces of beef, 250 vegetarian portions, 2,300 diners signed up and another 3,000 on the waiting list.

In addition to organizing a dinner for more than 2,000 people, White City Shabbat also had to contend with the laws of kashrut, Shabbat and of course, those of Guinness World Records itself. GWR stipulated that all attendees must be seated and have had their first course served by the waiters all within five minutes, and thereafter must remain at the table for a full hour that it took to eat the traditional Shabbat meal. Table captains were appointed to report to Patel and verify that everyone adhered to the rules. It was also important for the Guinness judge to know that the meal adhered to traditional Jewish customs for Shabbat, including the proper prayers, Kiddush, HaMotzei, and that the organizers weren’t breaking any Jewish religious laws.

The evening began with short speeches from Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Alan Dershwitz, Irwin Cotler and Jay Shultz, President of Am Yisrael Foundation, White City Shabbat’s umbrella organization, and was followed by a giant Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service outside of the Hangar. Once the meal was underway, organizers controlled the crowd by holding up large signsat strategic times throughout the meal, including “Shalom Alechem,” “Stand up,” “Sit down.” Many of the key prayers were projected along the inside walls of the venue. After the Golan Heights Winery sponsored Kiddush, Jay Shultz stood on a stage in the center of the room, hoisted a two-meter long challah above his head and roared out the HaMotzei benediction which kicked-off the official start of the meal and Patel’s stopwatch.

“Tonight, we all came together in the Land of Israel to celebrate Shabbat in unity and strength. There has never been an easier time in history for the Jewish People to live here, and it is clear that Tel Aviv is the most exciting thing happening in the entire Jewish World,” said Shultz, a New Jersey native who has been living in Israel for the past eight years. “May our unity of voice tonight reach and reassure all of Am Yisrael living around the globe, so they too will soon be as blessed as we are, to come Home. L’Shana HaBa’ah B’Tel Aviv!”

Various organizations, families, synagogues and groups of visiting tourists had booked tables in advance so they could sit together including, Nefesh b’Nefesh Lone Soldiers, Hillel Latin America, Sackler Medical School and the Israel Lacrosse team. A range of strategic partners were also involved, including the Municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the Israeli Ministry of Religious Services, ROI Community and Chabad on Campus who sent a group of young rabbis to help guide the crowd.

White City Shabbat is a volunteer-run non-profit organization that acts as the portal for Jewish life in Tel Aviv. The organization serves as a matchmaker for Shabbat hospitality, connecting guests with hosts throughout the city each week in addition to hosting large young professional communal dinners each month, holiday celebrations, a Jewish learning series, beginners learning minyan, and inter-community programming.