Hotels near Madras, Oregon have been booked out for three years. Columbia, South Carolina is welcoming over one million visitors to a town of 800,000. Up to 7.4 million people will be travelling to a 70-mile wide swath of land that stretches across 14 states.
It’s the Great American Eclipse, the first solar eclipse to sweep the country from coast to coast in 99 years, and as the Columbia Total Eclipse website puts it, “this is a big deal.” Chabad is there in the path of totality to serve their communities (an estimated 12 million Americans live in the areas where a total eclipse will occur) as well as the millions of visitors that will converge on their cities as the eclipse approaches.
Carbondale, Illinois will be a central point for those visitors, as the city will be experiencing the longest eclipse duration at 2 minutes 40 seconds. An expected 60,000 visitors will be taking advantage of this opportunity.
Chabad’s Rabbi Mendel and Yochi Scheiman are planning a weekend’s worth of events around the natural phenomenon. In addition to “Solar Eclipse Shabbat” services and meals, they are hosting a viewing event on Monday, and will lead a class on the Jewish perspective on eclipses. They will also provide visitors and community with kosher food and prayer services.
Eclipse-chasers on the East Coast will find the longest eclipse on the eastern seaboard in Columbia, South Carolina. Chabad of Columbia is ready for them, with eclipse programming beginning Thursday night at Columbia’s first kosher steakhouse, culminating in a grand “Jewclipse” barbeque luncheon on Monday afternoon. “This is going to be the biggest event Columbia has ever seen,” says Rabbi Levi Marrus, “and we’re capitalizing on that to provide a Jewish twist on this incredible natural phenomenon.”
As in most eclipse cities, accommodation in Salem, Oregon has been sold out well in advance of the event. So Rabbi Avraham Perlstein is offering another solution to Jewish visitors: a kosher eclipse camping experience. “About 40 people will be camping on our property, and we’ll be providing kosher meals Sunday and Monday,” he explains. He will also lead a class on the Kabbalah behind eclipses Sunday night.
The biggest city in the path of the total eclipse is also ready for their guests. “Because the eclipse is on Monday, people are expecting to stay all weekend, and we’re gearing up to serve Jewish visitors,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel of Nashville, Tennessee. Chabad of Nashville will be holding Eclipse Shabbat services with meals, delivering Shabbat meals to local hotels, and are holding a Sunday morning BLT Eclipse program.
Rabbi Scheiman of Carbondale reflects on the eclipse. “The more we study this, we realize there’s an intelligent design, and a purpose to every detail,” he explains. “Everything in creation is in exact alignment—the sun, the moon and the earth are the precise distances from each other to enable the eclipse to occur. Are we in alignment? What’s our purpose in creation?”
“The world will be getting dark for two minutes. It’s a great opportunity for us mortals to add light to this universe.”
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