Tel Aviv Feast Breaks Guinness World Record for Largest Shabbat Dinner

A thousand pieces of beef, 1,800 pieces of chicken, 2,000 challah rolls and 800 bottles of wine were served to the jubilant masses; no Jewish laws were broken.

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Good enough to eat. White City Shabbat's Guinness World Record-breaking dinner.
Good enough to eat. White City Shabbat's Guinness World Record-breaking dinner.Credit: Courtesy of White City Shabbat

More than 2,000 people gathered at the Tel Aviv Port on Friday for a sacred cause: breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest Shabbat dinner.

What does it take to set up a record-breaking meal? 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 and 250 vegetarian plates.

Some 2,300 people signed up (with 3,000 on the waiting list) for the event at Hangar 11, organized by the White City Shabbat, a non-profit organization that promotes Jewish Life in Tel Aviv. Only 1,000 people were needed to be present for the full meal in order to qualify.

Pravin Patel, a Guinness World Records adjudicator who came in especially from London, called it at 11 P.M.: Anyone seeking to outdo White City Shabbat would have to invite more 2,226 people to dinner.

If serving the hungry masses a five course meal isn't enough of a feat, the organizers had the strict halachic laws of Kashrut to adhere to, as well as the regulations laid out in the Guinness World Records official World Record attempt contract.

All the attendees needed to be in their seats and served their first course by the waiters within five minutes, and then be at their tabled eating for a full hour. Table captains were appointed to make sure that the meal adhered to traditional Jewish customs for Shabbat, including the proper prayers, Kiddush, HaMotzei, and that no Jewish religious laws were broken.

Among the guests were several notable figures including 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 Ron Huldai.

The only comparable religious event on record in the Guinness book is a mass Iftar dinner marking the end of Ramadan held in Turkey in 2012, with 20,715 participants – but that event, unlike this Shabbat dinner, took place in multiple cities across the country. The largest single service dinner on record was set by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in 2008, with 16,206 gathered at a Washington, D.C. convention center. 

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