Courtesy of a “non-impactful” trip two years ago (and a baseball cap)
he post-semester trip to Israel has become a rite of passage for secular college students involved in Meor, Olami’s college campus kiruv division. But in May 2021, with Israeli borders shut due to coronavirus precautions, the trip had to be shelved.
Instead, Rabbi Meir Goldberg of Meor Rutgers Jewish Xperience and Rabbi Jonny Kersh of Olami’s J-Beatz planned a small trip to Arizona, and seven students joined. There were speeches and heartfelt talks, but breathtaking scenery aside, the Arizona desert just couldn’t compete with the Holy Land, and the two rabbis left for home assuming that the trip hadn’t been particularly impactful.
On the flight back, Rabbi Goldberg nonchalantly put on a baseball cap with “Rutgers” spelled out in Hebrew cursive letters. During the flight, a girl in her late teens approached him hesitantly, squinting at his cap. “Are you involved in Rutgers?” she asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
The girl explained that she “had grown up Jewish,” but had fallen out of any sort of religiosity when she hit college and now wanted to start reconnecting. Would he be able to help?
Helping Jews in Rutgers connect to Judaism is literally Rabbi Goldberg’s day job, and he thrilled to pick up another client. The two kept in touch over the next two years, and the student grew steadily in her religious identity and commitment. Last year, she informed him that she was putting her career plans on hold for now — and would be attending seminary in Jerusalem for the 2023–24 year.
On Tuesday last week, Rabbi Goldberg saw a bas Yisrael off to Israel, courtesy of a “non-impactful” trip two years ago (and a baseball cap).
Happening in... Columbus
Distance is relative, and for those living in the Tristate area, relatives are usually not too distant.
But the theory of relativity gets a bit trickier once you begin inching farther away from the East Coast. The relatives are fewer and the distance is greater.
But that didn’t stop the Cincinnati-Columbus communities from trying. While the two Ohioan cities are divided by 108 miles, they decided to bridge geographical gaps and focus on spiritual bonds. A shabbaton was arranged in a Columbus hotel and families from both cities joined together for an inspirational and uplifting weekend.
“The Columbus-Cincinnati shabbaton represents the collective growth of Torah communities in Ohio,” says Rabbi Avi Goldstein, rav of Beth Jacob Congregation in Columbus. “The achdus and inspiration we all got from the weekend truly enabled everyone to go into the Yamim Noraim with ever greater chizuk."
For years, the Buckeye State’s slogan was “Find it here.” Ohio may not enjoy the amenities of its eastern neighbors, but for those in search of achdus and ahavas Yisrael, they will certainly “find it here.”
The new amount of the BMG kollel check, courtesy of Adirei HaTorah. Last year, the check was famously increased to $1,000 from $344, and this year, despite the stagnant economy, the checks were raised again, this time by five percent. The $50 monthly increase per yungerman represents a $3.5 million increase to the organization’s budget, which now stands at $70 million annually.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 977)
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