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A superhero Sabbath? Comic-Con to host cosplay Shabbat

Where else but Comic-Con would you find Sonic Screwdrivers at a Sabbath table? A Shabbat "un-networking event" that got its start at SXSW comes to the massive geek-fest.

Once Comic-Con actually does open, some people might need a little respite from the madness. Blake Stevenson

Batman, Wonder Woman, and wampas don't typically show up to celebrations of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, but that might be about to change.

#openShabbat, an unplugged Sabbath event held at SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, since 2010, is making its way to Comic-Con for the first time. This Friday night at the 45th San Diego Comic-Con International, the event will afford attendees of the giant geek-fest a chance to power down and connect with others face to face in the context of the weekly Jewish day of rest. (Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi singing Shabbat songs side by side? It could happen!).

Brooklyn-based rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, and his wife, Chana, originally founded the "un-networking" event and meal as an oasis from the chaos of the SXSW storm.

"People jump from party to party looking for that one VC or CEO, business card in hand," Lightstone told Crave. "At #openShabbat it's really a democratizing experience. We have VCs and executives, people with successful startups etc. sitting next to people just starting out, students...Since the focus is NOT networking, people are able to connect in new ways -- especially without the distraction of devices."

This Friday night at one of the premier multiday costuming events of the year, there's a good chance people will be way more distracted by one another's bat-ears and bat-boots than their own dinging smartphones anyway. San Diego Comic-Con kicks off Thursday, with some 130,000 guests expected to descend on the city's Gaslamp district for a multitude of pop-culture panels, comic book signings, and general geek camaraderie.

The Shabbat event offers "the chance for people to disengage from the convention as a whole, take a step back...and analyze who they are between the dual tensions of Jewish and universal identity in the culture we produce," Lightstone said. "I also happen to be an inveterate fan of pop and 'nerd' culture, so there's a personal interest in going as well."

Shabbat occurs each week from sundown Friday evening until the following evening. During this time, traditional Jews abstain from everyday activities such as talking about money or business and using electronic devices.


"Twitter is great, but it's conversation that takes place on it that makes it relevant," Lightstone said. "Unplugging at a conference, in my opinion, is the best platform to get that great conversation about who we are and where we're going."

With its emphasis on creating a respite from the stresses of ordinary daily life, #openShabbat shares a philosophy similar to that of the National Day of Unplugging, which also encourages the hyper-connected to embrace the ancient Jewish ritual of a day of rest. Both events welcome people of all backgrounds, and Friday's #openShabbat, which will start at 8:30 p.m. and run til at least midnight, also welcomes people of all costumes.

"I may or may not be in costume at the con at some point myself," teases Lightstone, who suggests he might dress as a steampunk rabbi but will not say whether lightsabers will be used to kindle the Shabbat candles.

Keep an eye out for CNET's coverage of San Diego Comic-Con this week, and in the meantime, get in the mood with some cosplay scenes from Crave writer Amanda Kooser's recent visit to Albuquerque Comic Expo.