The Jewish brethren are a united family – Ha’Shomer Achi Anochi! It is our obligation to demonstrate how we are our brothers’ keepers. This week, we continue our journey into Project Inspire’s recent convention with new insight on the organization’s lasting impact.

“Shabbos spent with so many yidden dedicated to helping Klal Yisrael was most enjoyable,” offered Rabbi Yussie Zakutinsky, mara d’asra of Lawrence’s K’hal Mevakshei Hashem, and no statement could be truer.

“Project Inspire made us feel at home,” said Shmuel Jacobs, originally of Kew Gardens Hills, now a member of Shaare Emunah: Sephardic Congregation of the Five Towns, beside his wife Chana. “We were moved and showed how to build a Torah home and inspire hundreds of lives along the way.” Shmuel spoke of his time in Eretz Yisrael at Rabbi Senter’s yeshivah, where he was surrounded by other healthy-minded young men. There he was taught to treat others how one would want to be treated. At the convention, Rabbi Senter impacted Shmuel further by divulging how one should properly live the Shabbos experience each weekend.

Yossie Friedman, Executive Director, led the opening remarks at the Motza’ei Shabbos keynote, setting the tone for an array of prized speakers including Rav Gav Friedman and Charlie Harary. Each lecture was awe-inspiring and captivating.

“When we said na’aseh v’nishmah, we committed ourselves to all the halachos and all of the Torah that is to come even though we did not know what it was. In that z’chus we had the entire Torah credited to us,” stated Rabbi Mordechai Tropp, Executive Liaison. “We are all part of this mission of kabalas haTorah. With Hashem’s wisdom we accept everything is we know it or understand. We are in.”

At the climax of the program, choson Yossi Hecht of Asher to the Yatzar fame performed live Three Little Words, a song he composed and released with the legendary Avraham Fried. The duo united on stage and brought tears to many in the audience. We are all faced with challenges that can sometimes feel overwhelming. Even though we understand that it is ultimately for our best, it takes courage and strength to persevere. These three little words, a prayer to our Creator – “thank you today” – are testimony to the fact that not only do we understand that whatever transpires is all for the best, but moreover we feel it deeply enough to live with gratitude and appreciation to Hashem for all the goodness that He bestows upon us.

Yitzchok and Faigy Stroh of Marine Park were delighted to be counted amongst the “regular people” who discovered that a simple smile could impact others so greatly. Yitzchok spoke of a positive encounter with Jeff and Britt, a couple living in Kanaab, Utah, that has led to the two couples sharing Shabbosim together in Brooklyn and Utah. The Strohs are a case in point how Orthodox Jews can be shining examples for the greater frum world when on vacation.

For my melavah malkah, I sat with Shelly Lang, a leader in Jewish music. Lang spoke of his early work being mekarev others during his years at NCSY and as he journeyed to Miami, Memphis, Savanah, and even Tennessee. “Kiruv has always been in my blood; every Jew is worth the effort to return them to a life of holiness. Everyone has the pintele Yid, no matter how distanced they may have become from Yiddishkeit. There is always a Jewish point deep within, some small spark waiting to be fired up.” Shelly noted how one man he impacted is now a distinguished rav. Shelly himself delivers a daily class, Shelly’s Short Shacharis Shiur, at the Agudah of Avenue L in Midwood, Brooklyn.

“Being a young frum mother responsible to maintain a functioning household and raise an infant, I do not have much time to include personal growth in my daily schedule,” said Rivka Adler of Far Rockaway, whose husband Yair is a dedicated Chaverim of Queens member. “The convention gave me the first opportunity in quite some time to sit back and focus on my spiritual growth. I am leaving this weekend on a high with the realization of how much growth there is yet to obtain beyond being able to inspire others, one must first inspire themselves.” Like many of their peers, Yair and his wife are comfortable with their level of growth, but they came to understand that we all need moments of inspiration to help us grow and do more for those we meet.

As a volunteer for TorahAnytime, I understand wholeheartedly the organization’s role as a key convention asset. Project Inspire was privileged to hosts co-founders Shimon Kolyakov and his brother Rubin, as well as their respected parents, Yaakov and Nina Kolyakov of Forest Hills. Nina was especially moved by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi and her command on the stage where she is known to speak with movement. The Rabbanit encouraged the female participants to connect with Esther HaMalkah as a sister. Jews worldwide must maintain a positive outlook and do their best, knowing full well that Hashem is always in our midst to move us forward. Baruch and Luda Kaikov, machatanim with the Kolyakovs, found the havdalah ceremony to be a convention climax, noting how “the beauty of Judaism was ignited” during the unifying ritual. “One could easily see the emotions of others coming full circle. Tears of happiness filled the room as the sacred words were recited bringing life and reason to often overlooked concept of thanking Hashem,” explained Baruch. Luda found Rav Efrem Goldberg’s message of changing someone else to bring them to an exalted level higher than oneself to be most inspiring. “The story was told of a man with a noticeable afro coming to shul. Then, it was explained how a few nice words from the rav altered the man entirely, bringing him to a place where he is now significantly higher than the rav himself.”

Project Inspire teaches how Hashem wants us to first open the door, allowing Him to finish our quest.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein