Program leaders and students explain how the Mitzvah Initiative helped them to better understand mitzvot and affect social change in their communities.
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik (RS '81), spiritual leader of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, describes the far-reaching impact of the Mitzvah Initiative on the program participants from his community.
Scott Miller, participant in the Mitzvah Initiative at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, discusses what attracted him to the program and the positive effect it had on his connection to Judaism and mitzvot.
Rabbi Ronald Roth (RS '78) of Fair Lawn Jewish Center / Congregation B'nai Israel discusses the benefits the Mitzvah Initiative offered participants.
Rona Montag of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center / Congregation B'nai Israel talks about the impact of the program on her understanding of Judaism and the opportunity to take on new and challenging projects as a result of her participation.
We celebrated the successful completion of the Mitzvah Initiative here at Adath Israel with a siyyuum on Shabbat, February 12, 2011. The Mitzvah Initiative has been an invaluable Jewish learning and personal growth experience, not only for our congregants, but also for all of us. We are eagerly looking forward to Mitzvah Initiative part two.
Hedda S. Morton, director of Congregational Learning
Adath Israel Congregation, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
In January 2010, Temple Emanu-El embarked on an ambitious undertaking in coordination with The Jewish Theological Seminary as participants in Chancellor Arnold Eisen's Mitzvah Initiative. After a successful advertising campaign and a wonderful kick-off educational Shabbaton, we succeeded in enrolling some 70 of our congregants in four parallel sessions of the program—and the results were remarkable.
Week after week, our constituents engaged in serious Jewish study, thoughtful conversations, and deep dialogue about core issues surrounding the concept of mitzvah and challenged themselves to personally explore specific areas of our own mitzvah practices. In addition to their educational import, these sessions were a tremendous opportunity for our community to bond across generational lines. Our oldest participants were active seniors in their eighties, and our youngest was a four-month-old who was brought to class by her parents; people truly got the chance to get to know one another through the bond of Jewish learning.
I highly recommend the Mitzvah Initiative as a vehicle for creating vibrant learning, challenging conversation, and social bonding within your congregation.
Rabbi Joel Seltzer (RS '08)
Temple Emanu-El, Providence, Rhode Island
The Mitzvah Initiative really set the tone for an entire year of study and growth. Because we offered four different sections at different times, with various teachers (plus one for high school students), we were able to reach a fairly wide range of congregants. This meant that it was more than just a handful involved, but an active cadre of over 50 people, which made an impact on our congregation.
Nearly every person who participated in the Mitzvah Initiative told us that the experience was valuable. They have a great desire to learn more and a greater commitment to involvement in the congregation. Many took on new mitzvot, or are seriously considering doing so in the near future. The program also helped to foster a stronger connection with JTS; we plan to run a trip next year and many Mitzvah Initiative participants have expressed a strong interest.
This program is a big commitment and it involves a lot of work. The rewards are well worth it.
Rabbi Michael Ungar (RS '92)
Temple Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio
The Mitzvah Initiative has been well received by those who have participated in it, not only as a traditional class, but as a springboard for further involvement in their Jewish lives.
On more than one occasion, people who are in the class have remarked that this initiative has helped them think about Judaism in a deeper way and motivated them to pursue a particular mitzvah, learn more, or participate in some other form of the Jewish community—I thought that was really something special.
The Jewish Theological Seminary and Chancellor Arnold Eisen have provided a wonderful curriculum, the inspiration to participate in the program, and a unique kind of learning experience. The Mitzvah Initiative really helped our community and made a difference in the lives and Jewish journeys of the people who took the class.
Rabbi Michael Schwab (RS '04)
North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, Illinois