Do Something Wonderful for Yourself and Fellow Jews
Recent figures show that of the 5 million American Jews, 4.5 million don’t identify Jewishly. If each of the roughly 1,500 kiruv/outreach professionals managed to connect with 300 people, this would not make a dent in the remaining four million. However, if all 500,000 frum Jews inspired less than 10 people during their lives, that would effectively reach all American Jews.
Having just returned from a most fabulous Shabbaton of Project Inspire, I share with our community how amazing it was and encourage you to attend their awe-inspiring programs and make a difference. A project of Aish HaTorah, dedicated to inspiring the frum community to share the beauty of our heritage with fellow Jews, Project Inspire used the world-wide Shabbos Project to host their annual Body & Soul Shabbos Retreat at the Parsippany Hilton. (The Shabbos Project is an international movement bringing together Jews from all levels of observance to keep one Shabbos.)
What was so phenomenal about this weekend was the roster of incredible speakers with inspiring topics and the incomparable ruach that Project Inspire is known for. Here’s a sampling of the speakers and topics:
If you haven’t heard Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, you don’t know what you are missing. With over 25 series on inner growth, health, parenting, and Jewish identity, he draws on his background in film and advertising to entertain while sharing powerful insights on love, happiness, and emotional intelligence. Rabbi Rietti spoke about keeping your Jewish journey alive, G-d’s view on failure and regret, and his classic, “How do I know G-d really spoke at Sinai?”
An expert in Jewish thought and a most engaging speaker, Rabbi Yitzchak Feldheim is one of the most sought-after lecturers in college outreach. Specializing in controversial topics, his classes examine the depth of Torah and how everything fits together in perfect harmony. His stimulating talks included: “Men Are from Mud; Women Are from Ribs: Understanding the Differences,” as well as “Bad Apples and Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Real-Life Story of Adam and Eve.”
A former evangelical missionary who studied Christian scriptural arguments specifically to convert Jews, Shannon Nuszen, now a sincere convert, devotes herself to anti-missionary work. She learned the behind-the-scenes manipulation and tactics used to penetrate the Jewish world to convert Jews to Christianity. Shannon’s astonishing life story included proving to her own minister father how wrong they were.
Sunny Levi, petite mother of six, is one of the world’s few female seventh-degree black-belt Tae Kwon Do Grand Masters – certainly the only Jewish one – personal trainer, self-defense instructor, inspirational speaker, and Kids Kicking Cancer volunteer. A gold medalist who became poster girl for United Airlines, Coca Cola and McDonalds, she shared her fascinating life journey, including her agent going crazy when she gave up a million-dollar Hollywood contract to keep Shabbos. On Motza’ei Shabbos, she demonstrated how to break boards and gave several attendees the opportunity, as well.
Other enlivening speakers included:
Rav Gav Friedman, known to keep audience in stitches with stimulating messages
Rabbi Eitiel Goldwicht, Director of Aish Israel, whose weekly “Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim” videos are seen all over the world
Rebbetzin Ruchy Koval, director of Congregation JFX, outreach synagogue in Cleveland and author of “Conversations with G-d” and “Soul Construction”
Rabbi Yoni Zakutinsky (brother of KGH’s Rabbi Yehuda Zakutinsky of Hashevaynu), head of Project Inspire Brooklyn, and
Libby Fedowitz, Project Inspire Queens, on “How to Connect with G-d on a Daily Basis.”
The credit for this incredibly festive and well-run Shabbos goes to the Project Inspire team led by founder and director, Rabbi Chaim Sampson, talmid of Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, founder of Aish HaTorah. Helping to realize Rav Noach’s dream of engaging all frum Jews to befriend and encourage less-affiliated Jews, Rabbi Sampson welcomed all with rousing words of how pressing this task is. Working alongside him are Rabbi Yossi Friedman of Jerusalem, Managing Director of Project Inspire, and Rabbi Mordechai Tropp, Project Inspire’s Executive Liaison at Aish HaTorah.
This weekend had it all, phenomenal speakers, scrumptious food by Meisner Caterers, plenty of Q&A sessions, as well as time to personally chat with the speakers, fun activities for the kids (magic show, games, groups), and adults (craft beer n’ wings bar, Zumba dancing, world renowned mentalist) as well as an unbeatable ruach that made you clearly understand that we are indeed one united family. Check out ProjectInspire.com for the next opportunity and have a share in creating the achdus.
By Leah Bleiberg