By Steve Savitsky
Chairman of the Board, Orthodox Union
As residents of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway community, we are blessed with an abundance of Torah. However, we sometimes tend to forget that the vast majority of Jews in North America are assimilating and disappearing at alarming rates. The Pew Report was another wakeup call to remind us that 70% of American Jews are marrying out of the faith. While there are great kiruv organizations dealing with this issue, we have not yet stemmed the tide. Is there any hope?
The answer must be yes. Hashem never presents us with a problem without a viable solution. One of the answers is simple, cost-effective, and benefits the entire spectrum of Jewish life. The answer is YOU. Yes, YOU, the reader of this article. Never before have we had the abundance of observant Torah Jews. Regardless of your level of learning, you can become a mentor and role model for an unaffiliated Jewish neshamah who is yearning to learn about his or her heritage. While our long-term goal is to bring them back to Judaism, our initial objective is to harness their desire to come closer to their Jewish roots. All that is required is your time. With a commitment of 30–45 minutes a week for 12 weeks, you can become a mentor who will learn on the phone with an eager individual. The subject matter can be either a highly structured prepared manual that is available for you or you can choose any subject of mutual interest. This interaction has been found to be highly effective for communicating and establishing a relationship for further involvement in the Jewish community.
Partners in Torah, a division of Torah U’Mesorah, is led by its founder and visionary, Rabbi Eli Gewirtz. Over the last decade, close to 50,000 people have participated in the program. The OU, as the umbrella organization for Orthodox Jewish life, has many programs servicing the Jewish community. Among them is its participation in the Birthright program, which brings Jewish youth, ages 18–26, to Israel for a 10-day, all-expenses-paid trip to learn about the history and beauty of Israel. Those who participate in our program return with a passionate desire to learn more about Torah and Judaism. The OU and Partners in Torah have joined together to maximize the enthusiasm of these returning young men and women. Those who have expressed the desire to continue learning are partnered with people like you, who live a Torah life. Through your time together during the weekly phone calls, learning and discussing Torah and Jewish life, a friendship and bond often develop, allowing a furtherance of this relationship. Slowly but surely, mentors and mentees change each other’s lives for the better. The mentee learns about the beauty of Torah, while the mentor, through his or her preparation and interaction with the student, strengthens and enhances his or her own commitment to Torah and mitzvot.
This summer, over 1,000 young men and women will participate in our Birthright program. It is imperative that we seize this unique opportunity and provide the needed mentors to meet the overwhelming demand to learn. You can do it. No matter the level of your learning and education, it is more than many of the participants’ levels, who have never experienced any sort of Jewish education. Whether you prefer the prepared teacher’s manual or want to learn a subject of mutual interest, you will be enabling a Jewish neshamah to return to the beauty of Torah.
This Sunday, June 22, we are having a mentor recruitment breakfast at the home of Jeff Resnick, 518 Hazel Drive in Woodmere, 9:30–11:00 a.m. There will be no solicitation of funds; rather, we will be soliciting your time to mentor. The breakfast will be inspiring as you hear brief presentations from current partners who have joined the program and how their lives have been impacted. Please join us and change the future of Jewish life. v