Ladies and gentleman, I would like to thank all of you for coming this afternoon, and especially thank the media for covering this important event. I have a big announcement to make; it’s a statement that will surely change the landscape of the Jewish community in Boca Raton.
My family has lived in Boca Raton for more than a decade, a community with over 130,000 Jews living in South Palm Beach County and more than 600,000 Jews live in South Florida, second only to New York. But you know as well as I do, that the overwhelming majority of Jews in our community are unaffiliated, they are not Reform, Conservative or Orthodox.
With that in mind, I must say that it’s been an incredible year for outreach and engagement in Boca Raton. I publicly want to thank the Boca Raton Synagogue, the BRS Outreach Revolution, Project Inspire, Aish Hatorah and NJOP for recognizing the successful programs that we initiated this past year. I would like to thank my friends, Rabbi’s and mentors for their wisdom, support and insight; Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Rabbi Phil Moskowitz, Dan Katz, Matthew Hocherman, Rabbi Yehoshua Liff, Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Rabbi Kenneth Brander and Rabbi Josh Fass. I especially want to thank my wife, Simone and my family and all of you that have been involved with this important project that began exactly two years ago, with our beginner service on Rosh Hashana. Special thanks to my friends at Project Inspire, especially Rabbi Tropp and Cecelia Fineman for inspiring me and of course NJOP, the National Jewish Outreach Programs, Rabbi Buchwald and Larry Greenman for everything you continue to do to support our work in Boca Raton.
Today is September 1st. We just celebrated the beginning of the new month of Elul and we are gearing up for an exciting new year. Everyone knows that The Boca Raton Synagogue always been synonymous with making people from different backgrounds feel warm and welcome in our community, and that’s the reason for its continued growth with more that 25 new families moving in this summer. But now it’s time that our community takes things to an even higher level. I have decided to formalize all of the outreach efforts and create the most ambitious outreach movement in the state of Florida. It’s not easy starting from scratch and building a new community organization, but I know with God’s help and your effort we will surely succeed. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege and honor to be able to introduce you to the BRJE, the Boca Raton Jewish Experience.
The Boca Raton Jewish Experience (BRJE) is an aggregator of nationally-developed educational programs, offering a variety of free classes to Jews about their history and heritage, and offering ways that people can interact meaningfully in Jewish communal experiences. Now you can get connected in a way that allows you to partake at your own pace.
Knowing something about Judaism does not require an all or nothing commitment. It’s an individual journey to be pursued at one’s own pace and interest. The mitzvot, are our opportunities for personal growth, to be tried, examined, and understood. We search the Torah for the wisdom that can enrich our lives, and seek to share that knowledge with all humanity. Through a variety of exciting free programs, BRJE reaches out offering positive, joyous, and authentic Jewish experiences and meaningful educational opportunities to people of all ages and backgrounds. BRJE programs convey the vibrancy of Judaism and the importance of Jewish community and Jewish continuity.
What makes this initiative different from all other outreach programs is that the BRJE will not focus on expanding its employees, but instead will rely on the dedicated affiliated members of our Jewish community and partner organizations. Take for example the Boca Raton Synagogue with over 650 families, what other Jewish organization can say they have more than 650 employees on their staff!! No one can!! – In effect this makes us one of the largest outreach organizations in the world. But more importantly this is not wishful thinking or an experiment that we are attempting; we have tested our programs for two years and have had incredible success. One example is our Share One Shabbat, where more than 200 BRS families were inspired to host over 1,000 people for a Shabbat dinner. If each of our members goes out of their way to engage just one or two unaffiliated Jews, we will reach more than a thousand, and that’s without even one program!! With your help, we will increase the number of participants at our beginner services on Shabbat, enlist the help of the greatest educators in community, have regular lunch and learns at locations that touch every corner of Boca Raton, create more free learning opportunities either one on one or in formal classes, all in a effort to make sure that none of the unaffiliated Jews in our community will be able to say that they didn’t have a gateway to the Jewish community.
The best part is for those of you that are tuning in from other parts of the country, you can do it too. Since the Project Inspire movie “The Road Home” was broadcast this past Tisha b’Av, I have spoken to many people in many communities all over America and Israel about developing Synagogue based outreach initiatives. So as the founding Director of the Boca Raton Jewish Experience, I want to share a few personal thoughts.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was the Jewish Holiday of Tisha b’Av 2009 and I was watching a film called One Soul by Project Inspire. Rabbi Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel introduced the film by saying that there was a research study that was done in the 90’s that said, if you have 100 Jews Secular Jews today, by the 4th Generation you will have 7 Jews. We also know that the overwhelming number of children of an intermarriage don’t keep their Jewish Heritage. 100,000 Jews a year are lost to assimilation, that’s 4 million Jews in the last 40 years, and that only in North America! – Its truly a silent Holocaust! They say there were 400,000 Jews on college campuses now there are 200,000, we’re shrinking! Ladies and gentleman, we don’t have the next 100 years to get our act together It’s do or die, the Jewish people are disappearing.
Rav Noach Weinberg would say “the Chofetz Chaim says in Chovos Hadas you go down the street and you see a guy drowning, you’ve gotta go in and save him – but you don’t know how to swim, poor guy, he drowns. But if every day you go and you see people drowning you have an obligation to learn how to swim.”
It’s not a matter if this is an opportune time, this is the only time! If we don’t act now, we’re not going to have another chance. This whole group of unaffiliated Jews isn’t going to wait until the next generation; studies have shown us that they’re not going to be Jews. This is the only time to do it.
Rav Noach would say – “We can’t fail, the almighty is with us, we have a Torah which is beautiful beyond compare, we just have to present it the right way, We are a people who are thirsty for meaning and are thirsty for truth, idealists in every way, the most charitable, active for the poor, they want truth, they want meaning, we have to do our job, we can’t fail if we just make that effort.”
We know the problems with assimilation and intermarriage, now it’s time that we make a difference and you can be a part of it. Just take a moment to think right now of someone, one person that might appreciate you reaching out to them, it might be a co-worker, a cousin, it could be someone living on your block, it could be anyone. But there is someone in your life, that you could call or email and invite to your home for Shabbos, a beginner class or a beginner service, or give them an easy outreach gift, just do something!
You don’t have to be a celebrity you just have to be yourself!! You can do something and it can really make a difference.
Ladies and gentleman welcome to the Boca Raton Jewish Experience
Inspire yourself to inspire others…
Rabbi Josh Broide
Boca Raton Jewish Experience
If you have any questions please contact me (561) 702-3864 or firstname.lastname@example.org