Reaching Young Jews With Twebrew, Tweets and Treats
Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder and executive director of National Jewish Outreach Program, told the 300 guests at its February 27th Annual Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria that “on October 12, 2014 NJOP celebrated Sukkot Across America at 80 locations.”
The brainchild of Holocaust survivor and NJOP supporter Sam Domb, the rabbi said: “Over 4,200 men women and children attended a broad array of Sukkot activities.” He informed that its April 2014 “Passover Across America” NJOP sponsored 60 Passover seders in 49 cities, 22 states, one Canadian province, in Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea! He also told of Chaplain Shlomo Shulman at the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the U. S. Army at Grafenwohr, Germany. “In the middle of a forest miles from the nearest Jewish community–Jewish servicemen who had never attended a Passover seder nor had attended one for decades — were revitalized by the experience.” Grafenwohr seder participants included “an Israeli man — who ran a jewelry store in a small town miles from the base who said he’d not been to a seder for over 25 years and showed up with his 22-year old son who had never been to a seder!”
Rabbi Buchwald also cited Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld of Congregation Tphiloh in Portland, Maine who boasted that one of his NJOP seder participants was professional hockey player Ethen Wernik “whose father is Israeli who was able to get away from the team’s practice to attend the seder.”
Though a decade ago, at its February 2004 dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, Rabbi Buchwald had lamented: “Almost 60% of American Jews have nothing at all to do with Judaism,” he was still able to proclaim that: “For the prior 16 years NJOP has reached 730,00 North American Jewish souls… taught them Hebrew and basic Judaism and given them a positive Shabbat experience… The future is to keep channels of communications open and we were ahead of the game. What [young people] respond to is social media —Twitter, Facebook… and we have 51,900 subscribers to Twitter — a total of 250,000 impressions a day!”
Following this year’s dinner I asked Rabbi Buchwald his thoughts vis a vis current Jewish literacy. “The problem is that the majority of non-Orthodox young people do not get any Jewish education…have no connection with Judaism, do not read Hebrew, do not attend synagogue and [regrettably] — synagogues are oyf tsores [in trouble] closing down…merging.”
Notwithstanding, Rabbi Buchwald proudly informed: “NJOP’s 2014 Read Hebrew American and Canada Campaign conducted during the High Holidays offered over 500 Hebrew Reading classes at more than 400 locations. About 5,000-6,000 North American Jews learned to read Hebrew over the past few months. And — would you believe — a small group of American ex-pats in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico have been learning Hebrew through the NJOP method.
“This year on March 13, 2015 we will celebrate Shabbat Across American and Canada. To date 974,830 North Americans have participated — and [this time] we expect our one millionths participant!”