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Local Kiruv Group Helps Prevent Assimilation

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Rabbi Fingerer with Shlomo Zakheim and a BJX student. (PHOTO CREDIT: YURIY LITVINOV)More Jews marrying Jewish thanks to Brooklyn Jewish Experience and community members  

BJX’s (Brooklyn Jewish eXperience) is a group with a mission. That mission is to ensure that every resident of Brooklyn, even the most unaffiliated and secular, be afforded a connection to our Torah heritage and feel part of the Jewish family. One new student who has not missed a single BJX program for several months was so inspired by what he’s been learning that he stayed up the entire night learning on Shavuot night. He pledged this week to only marry a Jewish girl and raise a Jewish family.

This no small commitment. Most of our students, your neighbors in Brooklyn, date non-Jews as they are totally unaware that the Torah prohibits intermarriage. Once they enter our program, 99% of our participants commit to marrying Jewish.

Many of us may not be familiar with the fact that Mark Zuckerberg’s father grew up in Flatbush and attended Brooklyn College. He also maintained his dental practice there for many years. Tragically, Mark Zuckerberg recently intermarried. It causes one to wonder: what if an organization like BJX had been around in his father’s formative years? Perhaps the tragedy of Mark’s intermarriage to Priscilla Chan may have been averted.

One of the latest BJX gatherings was hosted by Shlomo and Dr. Faye Zakheim. Students were treated to a scrumptious dinner, which included a buffet catered by Pomegranate. BJX’s dynamic Rav, Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer, introduced the program with beautiful words of Torah and hashkafah (Jewish philosophy). Dr. Faye then spoke passionately about the beauty of a Torah-based marriage and inspired the students to consider incorporating Jewish concepts and halachot (Torah and rabbinic laws) into their relationships. She and her daughters (both social workers) conducted a panel on relationships and provided wonderful and salient insight into what makes a relationships work, what are red flags and danger signs in a relationship, and other such topics. The students felt so honored to learn from and connect with a religious woman who is also so contemporary and credentialed (professor at NYU, chairwoman of the Taskforce of Families and Youth at Risk, etc).

It appears that the Brooklyn Jewish Experience’s emphasis on the virtues of Jewish marriage is having an effect. Two of the program’s students married last week, with Rabbi Fingerer attending the Aufruf [the festive Shabbat preceding the wedding on which the groom receives special honors; many Sephardic Jews have a similar custom for the Shabbat after the wedding, commonly referred to as Shabbat Hatan –ed.]  and BJX lay leader Moshe Caller attending the wedding in Miami.

Mr. Shlomo Zakheim gave a riveting talk about his own background, business successes, and the amazing chesed (i.e. charitable) activities that he’s privileged to work on. The students were absolutely transfixed and captivated to learn about his humble beginnings and meteoric rise, and his faith in Hashem and emunat chachamim (faith in the wisdom of our Sages). Many told Rabbi Fingerer that they never met someone like Mr. Zakheim, a person who is involved in caring for others. They were very much inspired by his work with cancer patients, his devotion to attending minyan and Torah study, and his love and devotion to his family.

Describing their various programs to the Jewish Voice, a representative from BJX also made a point of expressing the organization’s gratitude to their highly devoted lay leader, Mr. Moshe Caller, for taking time from his busy schedule and being available to mentor and counsel students. Mrs. Adele Adjmi also hosted a few BJX students for Shabbat (which, word has it, they enjoyed immensely) and also joined the BJX program as a mentor.

Last week’s BJX program was hosted by Dr. Yakov and Chaya Moskovits. Students were fed, body and mind, treated to yet another delectable dinner smorgasbord and dessert buffet, as well as fascinating words of Torah from Rabbi Fingerer. Dr. Moskovits is a prominent cardiologist. As the chief of a department at a local hospital and an assistant professor at Mount Sinai, Dr. Moskovits’ medical credentials alone would be enough to impress the BJX participants. What the students also learned, to their surprise, was that Moskovits was born in post-war Germany and could have led a comfortable and affluent lifestyle in there. Instead he made personal and professional sacrifices and restarted his career in order to be in a more Torah-saturated atmosphere. Dr. Moskovits is an accomplished Torah scholar and he awed the students with a phenomenal class on “Aleph Beis: Building Blocks of the Universe.” Mrs. Moskovits was a senior vice president in Morgan Stanley. The students were fascinated to learn about her transition from the financial world to becoming a full-time mother and community activist involved in numerous chesed activities. 

If you’d like to get involved or help support kiruv in Brooklyn, please visit www.thinkandcare .org or call 646-785-6845.

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