Under the concept that all Jews are responsible for one another, the Orthodox Union’s Project Areivim sends volunteers with special knowledge and skills from their home communities to nearby and distant synagogue communities around the country. Areivim, or those who look out for one another, offer their talents, be it delivering speeches, one-on-one learning, or prayer service leadership.
Sponsored by the OU’s Young Leadership Cabinet (YLC) and Department of Synagogue Services, Project Areivim sends OU board members and YLC members, as well as several OU staff members, to make a difference by visiting emerging communities and providing whatever the specific community desires. The program is free of charge to the OU synagogues and communities; YLC funds the entire visit, including travel expenses.
Established in 2006, the project was the inspiration of OU President Stephen J. Savitsky, and is now being directed by Tzivia Arnow, Director of the YLC, who joined the OU staff earlier this year. “The purpose of Project Areivim, with its underlying concept that all Jews must look out for one another, is to bridge the gap between the OU’s available talent and the communities which can use that talent to supplement their home grown strength,” declared Mr. Savitsky.
Ms. Arnow works with the different communities to gauge their specific interests and to match them up with Areivim who can deliver the communities’ requests, be it a leader of the prayer service (Ba’al Korei), reader of the Torah (Ba’al Tefillah), or experts in fields like Jewish law and medical ethics.
Past Areivim include: the “inaugural” Areiv and one of the founding members of the YLC, Uri Schneider, sent from his home of Kew Gardens Hills to Congregation Beth Abraham–Jacob in Albany, NY, where he spoke about the OU and its various activities; Dr. John Loike, Professor of Bio-Ethics at Columbia University, who visited Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, CA to speak about the issues regarding stem cells; and Howie Beigelman, Deputy Director of the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), who visited Kehillat Ohr Tzion in Buffalo, NY, to speak about the Jewish view of political activism.
Some recent “shidduchim” (matches) that Ms. Arnow has orchestrated include sending Rabbi Simcha and Leah Herzog to the Forest Park Jewish Center, in Forest Park, Queens. Rabbi Herzog, who is also a lawyer, spoke about the interface between halacha (Jewish law) and secular law and feminism’s origins in Judaism. Rabbi Daniel and Anat Coleman visited the Stony Brook Hebrew Congregation in Stony Brook, Long Island, NY. Rabbi Coleman, a chaplain at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, spoke about organ donation and delivered a lecture on the weekly Torah reading, while Anat gave a women-only presentation, entitled From Cleaning to Cleansing: In and Out of the Kitchen. Mrs. Coleman said, “Shabbat at Stony Brook was a mutually enriching experience, and a wonderful entree to our participation in Areivim.” For their next trip, the Colemans will visit Columbus, OH for Shavuot.
Dr. David Luchins, an OU Board member and Political Science Chair of Touro College in New York, visited Cincinnati, May 9-10. Dr. Luchins also participated in a panel discussion on the 2008 elections, Sunday, May 11, sponsored by the OU and Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. Dr. Luchins will also visit Austin, TX, June 14. Uri Schneider, the inaugural Areiv, will travel from New York to visit Minneapolis this month.
Ms. Arnow declared, “The feedback from both the speakers and the communities who have participated so far has been extremely positive. We are very excited to fully implement this project and to develop other programs that will benefit Jewish communities across the country.”
To get involved, either as an Areiv or if your community in interested in hosting one, contact Ms. Arnow at 212-613-8134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.