The 2023 Project Inspire Convention, entitled “My Brother’s Keeper,” brought out the best of the Orthodox community, inspiring attendees to join the organization’s mission of connecting and uniting Jews of all backgrounds. Featuring world-renowned inspirational speakers, amazing cuisine, and exciting entertainment, the event held at the Armon Hotel and Conference Center in Stamford, Connecticut, lived true to tradition. The weekend’s underlying message focused on reaching out and sharing the beauty and wisdom of our common heritage with fellow Jews by first inspiring oneself to be able to share moments of glory with others. The world of outreach in the Orthodox community is guided by the convention’s messages and empowers everyone to take responsibility for sharing their Judaism.

“There’s never been an easier time to ignite the pintele Yid of our disenfranchised brothers and sisters,” offered Rabbi Chanan “Anthony” Gordon, a Los Angeles radio host and regular Project Inspire personality. “In the world of post-COVID and social media, everyone feels alone and insulated. All they need is to be shown a bit of love and friendliness.” Rabbi Gordon elucidated how a few simple words are “such a shock to the system and this is the emes.”

“Roll up your sleeves!” was the resounding advice from Steven Berg, CEO of Aish HaTorah. “The Project Inspire convention once again delivered a unified message to love and embrace every other Jew with unconditional love.”

Yitzy Gross of Lakewood expressed how each speaker provided a derech for reaching out to others, personifying the notion that there is no end in Hashem’s world and there are bountiful measures to push forward. Charlie and Linda Baron Katz of Kew Gardens Hill’s Congregation Etz Chaim found each speaker to have their own style of deliverance – some with laughter and others with intellect – and found Rabbi Yitzchok Feldheim’s discourse on “Innocence versus Sophistication: Should we build higher walls or wider bridges?” to be most enlightening.

The siyata diShmaya of Isaac and Edie Gross of Flatbush has aided their longstanding partnership with Project Inspire since its initial involvement with Aish, and they have continuously worked to awaken the sleeping giant in klal Yisrael. “The key word of “inspiring” still remains the inherent mission of these conventions so many years later,” commented Mrs. Gross. Rabbi Yoni Zakutinsky, Director of the organization’s Brooklyn team, and his wife Shulamis, use exciting programming, one-on-one learning, and dynamic Shabbatons to arouse thousands of Torah-observant Jews, encouraging them to reach out to their Jewish friends and neighbors of all backgrounds. Rabbi Zakutinsky spoke of the sleeping giant as the essence of his daily routine. “We must expose other Jews to be connected to Judaism.”

Ephraim Berger of Kew Gardens Hills, who attended with his wife Shani, was especially moved by the opening keynote session: Naaseh V’Nishma Amru K’Echad: Now What? – delivered by Rav Nissan Kaplan. The renowned Mir Yeshiva of Yerushalayim rebbe encouraged attendees to “perfect yourself in order to help others.”

Of the many memorable moments throughout the weekend, a handsome donation of $10,000 by Reb Michael Rosenberg, President and CEO of the Rosdev Group, owners of the Armon Hotel and Conference, stood out. Project Inspire has brought their convention to this admired home away from home for Orthodox Jews for nearly all of its Shabbatonim. Rosenberg’s acknowledgement of this partnership is as heartwarming as the inspiration shared by the countless lecturers.

Hoping to gain a few sparks of Torah, Nissim Aghalar of Great Neck and two of his nephews joined the Motza’ei Shabbos program. As a previous Project Inspire Convention attendee, he wanted to feel the signature love that surrounds the convention floor, despite having a Shabbos conflict. Ezra Birnbaum found that inspiration in a shiur from Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter, founder of Yeshivas Aderes HaTorah, entitled Turning Our Shabbos Tables into a Spiritual Sanctuary. Rabbi Senter stressed how there must be love for everyone in order for progress to be ascertained.

Annually, members of Yalla, under the leadership of Faigie Baise-Schwartz, join the Project Inspire weekend. Their support group gives over 120 young adults, aged 18 and up, who face life-threatening or lifelong medical illness or physical handicaps, the opportunity to experience unique activities while fostering friendships. “As they get older, these individuals need strength to push forward and remain social. We accomplish this by giving the medically fragile community as much independence as feasible.” The group also organizes medically supervised Birthright trips, and interactive Shabbaton experiences, while encouraging job prospects, college education, and shidduchim. “We operate with the theory that if we treat the participants like adults, despite their disabilities, then they are as much responsible to make their impact on klal Yisrael as anyone else.”

Rabbi Elinatan Bitton, a rebbe at Magen David Yeshivah High School for three decades, joined the convention alongside his wife, international orator Jackie Bitton. Together, they have vastly impacted teens and young adults by inspiring them to grow on the path of Torah u’mitzvos with happiness and positivity. Together they have proven that one does not need much influence to be involved in kiruv.

Rabbi Bitton related the famous line in Pirkei Avos (2:16), “Lo alecha ha’melachah ligmor” – It is not your duty to finish the work – in relation to his outreach work while in a San Diego kollel and the Seattle kollel. There, he experienced firsthand how a simple interaction at a relatively small barbecue get-together results in generations of frum families to follow. Rabbi Bitton made the first interaction with a young high schooler and convinced her that she would excel in Camp Nageela that summer. “We were zocheh to help her connect to Hashem and be able to pass along to others the wisdom and journey of the Torah,” explained the rabbi. This progressed into the young woman being inspired to attend a yeshivah high school, bring kosher into her home, return to Camp Nageela, spend two years in seminary in Eretz Yisrael, attend Touro and become a nurse, and eventually make aliyah! Rabbi Bitton noted that his decision to attend the barbecue enabled him to ignite the spark that allowed countless other organizations to rise as role models in this girl’s eyes. “Just do what you can.”

On Sunday afternoon, as I prepared to depart the convention, I encountered Dr. Jonathan Donath, president and co-founder of Daily Giving, whose organization’s last donation to Project Inspire on February 21 was $13,893, up from a December donation of $12,783. “Project Inspire is an incredible organization, where you come for two and a half days, and you leave rejuvenated, more connected to Hashem.” To date, Daily Giving has given $8,272,173 to a myriad of organizations and has $5,131,900 set to donate over the next year at $14,060 per donating day.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein