The respective synagogues are: Hebrew Institute of White Plains led by Rabbi Chaim Marder; Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation led by Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider (both in Westchester); and the historic Bialystoker Synagogue on the Lower East Side, led by Rabbi Zvi Romm. The grant will allow the communities to encourage and facilitate active participation and Jewish identification by developing positive Jewish experiences, educational and social programs combined with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
All three synagogues have already demonstrated substantial success with outreach programs of their own. They were selected from a group of twenty synagogues which responded to an invitation from the OU in May to apply for the services grant.
Participating synagogues were selected from applications submitted from the five boroughs, Westchester, and Long Island, the area served by UJA-Federation of New York.
Frank Buchweitz, Director of the Department of Community Services and Special Projects, declared, “This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out and change lives while benefitting one’s community, Klal Yisroel, and hopefully increasing participation and membership in each synagogue. May the New Year truly provide the opportunity for all of us to reach out as well and change lives through positive Jewish connections. “
Program coordination from the Orthodox Union will play a key role in implementing the initiative by working closely on a regular basis with the outreach teams of participating synagogues, providing them with the support, guidance, linkage, and resources that they need.
Each of the synagogues listed below has received a one-year grant of services, subject to renewal for a second year. A support team from the OU will work closely with the participating shuls to develop benchmarks and measures to assess program success and its ability to be replicated in other synagogues and communities.
The Bialystoker Synagogue, established in 1878, is a national landmark on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and a renowned Orthodox congregation with approximately 300 member families. The shul is located within Grand Street Cooperative Village, an area with a large percentage of Jewish residents who are overwhelmingly non-observant and unaffiliated. “The synagogue has already embarked on a number of successful kiruv initiatives, such as: free High Holiday Beginners Services; crash courses in Hebrew reading, Shabbat across America; and the Downtown School for Judaism,” said Rabbi Romm.
The Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation has been very successful in attracting unaffiliated families in the Northern Westchester County area. Among its initiatives is a successful Hebrew School, with two kollel families who are skilled and geared to reaching out and being part of a professional kiruv effort. “We are excited to implement the program to reach out to those seeking to learn more about their Judaism and choosing to become part of a larger Jewish family,” said Rabbi Goldscheider.
“The Hebrew Institute of White Plains is a congregation built on understanding and openness, committed to engaging people wherever they are on the religious spectrum,” said Rabbi Marder, who has been involved in various outreach efforts throughout his career. “The synagogue is excited to embark on its first full effort at a coordinated outreach program.”
The OU will offer training sessions to the three synagogues that include ready-to-use kiruv programs, consultations, speakers, and resource materials. They include:
• How to develop an effective outreach program;
• Developing an effective beginners/intermediate learners service;
• How to develop an effective Shabbat table: developing and nurturing relationships;
• A taste of Discovery Shabbat;
• Motivating membership to reach out: issues in effectiveness and outreach;
• Crash courses in basic Hebrew reading, basic Judaism, living Judaism, Jewish history and holiday workshops: Shabbat Across America;
• Mizmor Shir Leyom HaShabbat, a special Shabbat service, and
• One-on-one learning program with a personal trainer.