Last Shabbos, Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, shlita, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, dared over 1,000 Jews from across North America to live a life that will enable them to answer Tanna Devei Eliyahu’s question in the final judgment after 120 years: “What did you do to prevent the Torah from being forgotten in Yisrael?”
In his eloquent and powerful voice, the rav exclaimed that this question was one of the greatest inspirations of his life. “Because of this, I devoted my life to spreading Torah to the far reaches of the Jewish world,” the Chief Rabbi said. “No Jew is free from this duty–everyone can contribute something. If you are a part of this inspired project–Project Inspire–you are a ben Olam Haba!”
Despite the blizzard, over 1,000 Jews from across the Jewish spectrum and from as far away as Cleveland, Baltimore, Toronto, Minnesota, Montreal, and even Brazil and Israel, gathered together at the luxurious Stamford Plaza Hotel in Connecticut for the fourth annual Project Inspire convention. In addition to Rav Lau, the keynote presenters included Rav Noach Isaac Oelbaum of Queens, Rabbi Eli Mansour of Brooklyn, Rabbi Eytan Feiner of Far Rockaway, and Rav Hillel Weinberg, the rosh hayeshiva of Aish HaTorah Yerushalayim. Women participants flocked to hear words of inspiration from Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, one of the most popular woman speakers in Israel, Rebbitzen Aviva Feiner, and others. The conference featured 51 breakout sessions led by world-renowned inspirational speakers, and heartfelt singing by the legendary Travelling Chassidim–a group of Belzer Chassidim who travel across North America running Shabbatons for less affiliated Jews.
The highlight of the convention was the Motzaei Shabbos presentation that included Project Inspire’s year in review that highlighted the 10,000 easy outreach gifts distributed to non-frum people, over 1,000 non-frum college students and families that were hosted by communities across the Tri-State area and Toronto, the hundreds of one-on-one learning partnerships that occurred over the course of the year, as well as the 7,500 home kiruv trainings conducted since the inception of Project Inspire. Additionally, over 200 unaffiliated mothers have attended learning trips to Israel that were recruited, staffed, and followed-up entirely by Project Inspire volunteers. The evening also included inspirational words from Rabbi Lau, moving music from Lev Tahor’s pianist and singer Eli Schwebel, and comical relief from Project Inspire’s new kiruv film, The Shake.
Project Inspire, a project of Aish International, was founded to fulfill the dream of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt’l, of inspiring frum Jews across North America to share the beauty of Judaism with their less-affiliated neighbors, family members, and coworkers. Their mission statement: You don’t need to be a “kiruv professional” to reach out to non-frum Yidden–you just have to care. Project Inspire’s goal is to create a grassroots movement within the frum community to reach out and ultimately change the Jewish world. There aren’t enough kiruv professionals out there to reach the 90% of Jews who are disconnected from Yiddishkeit. The only way to do it is with help from every member of Klal Yisrael. In just a few short years, Project Inspire, led by their international director, Rabbi Chaim Sampson, has inspired thousands of frum Jews to impact the lives of countless others, and through simple acts, kind words, and Shabbos invitations, thousands of people have been brought closer to Yiddishkeit.
According to Rabbi Oelbaum, “The opportunity to reach out and influence other people is one of the most important mitzvos of the generation. This is an opportunity to put your talents to use–everyone has the ability to do something to inspire and light a spark in another Jew. I recommend that everyone should experience a Project Inspire convention and be inspired for the entire year.”
The crowd heard from Efi Bibi–the secular Israeli actor whose life was forever changed by his conversation with Mrs. Tzippy Reifer–a Chassidish lady from Boro Park on the plane back from Eretz Yisrael. Today Efi learns full time at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, leads tours at the Aish World Center for Israeli soldiers and school groups, and is helping to develop Aish Israel–a new Israeli branch of Aish HaTorah. “Our job isn’t to make people frum. We just have to care about Yidden,” Project Inspires founding partner Dr. Stuart Hytman said.
“Everyone has people that they know who they can reach out to–a neighbor, a coworker, a relative,” Project Inspire’s international director, Rabbi Chaim Sampson, urged. “Everyone can also encourage their frum friends and relatives to reach out to the people they know. If all the people at the convention take action, there is no doubt in my mind that it will, b’ezras Hashem, create a historic change in Klal Yisrael and certainly play a role in hastening the ge’ulah shleimah.”
For more information on both Project Inspire events and opportunities to sponsor programs and initiatives, please contact Rabbi Mordechai Tropp at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-461-3316. v