Saturday, January 15, 2011

YU Coast To Coast spends Shabbat at Boca Raton Synagogue

Every shabbos at BRS is very exciting. As someone who gets to work on the program along with Rabbi Goldberg and Rabbi Moskowitz, I am still blown away after the events actually take place. Every week seems bring something special that I won’t forget for a very long time. In addition to hearing from Mort Klein, the president of the ZOA, we also got to host college students from Yeshiva University and Stern College. This is not the first time that BRS has partnered with YU, in fact each year we have one Shabbos dedicated to the special connection that we share. But this shabbos was different.

A few months ago I had spoken to Rabbi Phillip Moskowitz, the BRS Assistant Rabbi and a former employee at the YU Center For The Jewish Future, about letting YU’s future community leaders see how important it is to have a synagogue based outreach program. In addition, show them what outreach tools we have used that have worked and let them know what we wouldn’t recommend based on our experiences. I then spoke to Rabbi Brander and Ari Rockoff at the CJF, who suggested that we participate in their Coast to Coast program. This select group of University students would be traveling to see different communities and perhaps one of those stops could be in Boca Raton. Traditionally, the trip was initiated to see smaller Jewish communities in the United States and a place like Boca was already established enough that it didn’t necessarily qualify. After kicking the idea around a little more we all came up with a great program that had never been done before. Instead of the students having a Shabbos lunch with the “regular” members of the community, why couldn’t they sit down and meet the regular participants of the outreach program. They would each gain something from that interaction that could never be taught in a classroom. Just imagine sitting at a shabbos table with people that could tell the students why they began attending beginner programs or services as JSU South Florida students or adults of all ages. Perhaps they could explain why they been turned off or in some cases turned away from Judaism. In turn the students could explain why it is important for them to attend a college like YU and the value of having a dual curriculum. Everyone loved the idea, or at least I did. But to tell you the truth, I had no idea it would work. Maybe the YU students wouldn’t open up to complete strangers and maybe none of the people that I invited to participate would show up for the lunch. But I was determined to get both of these groups to a shabbos table so that they can see that they both exist and more importantly that any negative stereotypes would instantly disappear.

Well after weeks of waiting to see what would happen, the shabbos finally came. I knew the moment that walked into Friday Night Live, our weekly Friday Night beginner service that this would be a special weekend. We had the biggest crowd we had ever had and some of the YU students got to experience their first beginner service/educational program. The next day at lunch, each of the outreach participants got to share their personal experiences and at one moment someone was even brought to tears. Each story was so unique and so special and I only wish that we could have had more YU students participate. All in all there were about twenty student and another twenty participants from the Boca Raton Jewish Experience, ranging in age from teenagers to a grandmother. It just goes to show you that you should never think that someone is to old or too young to start learning about their rich Jewish heritage. I hope that the students will take back the experiences that they had at Boca Raton Synagogue and not only bring it back to their friends at Yeshiva University and Stern College, but that they take the lessons back to their communities that they live in. I hope that each of them are inspired to get involved in programs like JSU, the Jewish Student Union, or ask their Rabbi’s in their hometown shuls, if they can start a beginner service. No more excuses just action and if they need any support I will be happy to put them in touch with the right people at NJOP or Project Inspire, the same people who helped us get started.

Thank you YU and Stern and we hope you send your friends to South Florida to see the magic first hand.

Inspire yourself to inspire others….

I’ll be in Israel this week, but when I get back I’ll be discussing the YU experience on the Josh Broide radio show – Jewish Pride, for more info or to hear archived shows just go to

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and please check out the following great websites
JSU (Jewish Student Union)  and like “JSU South Florida” on Facebook
Boca Raton Jewish Experience –
NJOP (National Jewish Outreach Program) –
Project Inspire –

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