By Daniel Weiss, Dvash Founder and Director

One doesn’t know quite what to expect when meeting Dr. Leonard Carr for the first time. Soft-spoken, with a South African accent, his words come out in a leisurely drawl. But it is not the accent that grabs you; rather it is the tranquillity of his speech and the depth of his words. His voice is soothing and calming, yet it conveys the deep wisdom of the Maharal, as well as life-changing insights into human psychology. “When I listen to people’s dating stories, they sound tedious and dull. People are stuck in a paradox. You are put in a situation that you are not enjoying. Let me ask you, can someone enjoy you if you are not enjoying yourself?” And so he began sharing his thoughts at the Dvash Project last Monday night.

The Dvash Project is an interactive shiur held in Lawrence every other week. It draws a crowd of 60-100 Orthodox singles on a regular basis from as far away as Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and even Lakewood and Baltimore. Dvash was formed by a group of committed singles with the support of Rabbi Eytan Feiner. They saw a need in the community for a kosher place for frum individuals to meet in an appropriate way. The interactive format of the shiur is arranged to generate genuine discussion among the participants, and the content and topics have depth and relevance to the participants of the shiur. Since the launch of the shiur less than a year ago, over 650 different people have attended and through the shiur many of the attendees were introduced to appropriate dates. Over a dozen speakers have graced the shiur with their presence, including Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, and Rabbi YY Rubinstein, which brings us to the latest speaker, Dr. Leonard Carr.

For the past 30 years, clinical psychologist Leonard Carr from Johannesburg, South Africa, has helped thousands of people from all walks of life obtain real solutions to real life challenges. He has achieved major success among his private and corporate clients, including Toyota, East Africa, and Deutsche Bank, and has recently garnered international media attention for his analysis of the Oscar Pistorius trial, one of the biggest contemporary trials in South Africa. Leonard Carr’s wealth of knowledge in Torah and psychology combines to form a profound and relevant approach to relationships, and he has transformed the South African Jewish community with his work there. He was visiting the United States on a lecture and workshop series through Breakthrough NYC, an organization committed to spreading his teachings stateside.

Dr. Carr spoke on the topic of “The Power of Authenticity”–how important it is to be genuine and real on a date. “The average first date is an audition where you know you are being judged and there are huge expectations. So you have this pressure of knowing that you are under scrutiny… And yet you have to approach all of this being bubbly and confident and relaxed.” He highlighted that people can’t connect with another person unless they feel comfortable being themselves. In order to do that, Carr says a person has to find the contexts that work for him, that make him or her feel open, alive, safe, and able to connect.

The evening, which had over 85 participants and featured sushi and other tasty treats, was enlightening and enjoyable. “It was very insightful,” said one participant at the lecture. “I loved the atmosphere,” said another who came in from Queens, “there was no awkwardness; it’s such a normal place to meet people.” As vice-director of Dvash Aryeh Smith puts it, “Dvash is the answer for singles looking to meet and grow in their Yiddishkeit, yet do so in a comfortable setting.” Ultimately, the lecture served its purpose, giving marriage-minded individuals an opportunity to grow and meet other singles in an appropriate environment. You might just say Dvash is the context that makes people feel comfortable being themselves.

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