Flatbush Shabbos Project Unites 1,000+ Jews!
By: Menachem Segal
Can one describe over 700 people chanting and harmonizing Kabbalas Shabbos together? Can one describe the miracle of almost 150 young Jewish men and women from secular homes singing Shalom Aleichem and observing Shabbos? Or the many Flatbush families who joined the dinner with a less affiliated colleague or neighbor?
Can one describe an exhilarating musical Havdalah of 500 Jews swaying shoulder to shoulder in complete unity? Can one describe a 90-year-old Auschwitz survivor triumphantly singing “Am Yisroel Chai” at the Challah bake and relating her story of faith and endurance? Chaya Lew, a BJX family member masterfully coordinated the beautiful Challah Bake.
Certain scenes defy description. Certain events are indescribable. Certain images can’t be conveyed in words. To capture the essence of the past BJX Flatbush Shabbos Project in words is impossible. You had to witness it firsthand to feel the electrifying energy and to tap into the tremendous spirituality. The inspiration was palpable; the love was tangible.
People’s hearts melted. People’s souls were ignited. Frum or non-frum, everyone felt that this past Shabbos was transformative.
Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer, Mora d’Asra of BJX, opened his Friday night address, “A Jew cannot be apathetic or indifferent. A Jew must be aflame and on fire to make a difference and to grow. If one isn’t ascending, one is descending. If one isn’t climbing, one is falling. If one isn’t swimming, one is drowning. This Shabbos is about becoming greater and sharing the love of Yiddishkeit with each other and our fellow Jews.”
People called the BJX office pleading to host guests and introduce them to the beauty of Shabbos. Numerous families opened their homes.
Rabbi Moshe Fingerer, Director of BJX, and his devoted team, planned an epic Flatbush Shabbos Project that impacted more than a thousand people and spanned 5 different locations. Programs and shiurim took place at Rabbi Bergman’s shul, Kingsway Jewish Center, Rabbi Cynamon’s shul, BJX Beis Medrash and the Agudah of Avenue L.
BJX partnered with Kingsway Jewish Center under the leadership of Rabbi Etan Tokayer and co-presidents Jeff Grodko and Yitz Elman who graciously opened their doors for the Flatbush Shabbos Project. Every nook and cranny of the massive Kingsway shul was full of eager people excited to participate in the special Shabbos. Kabbalas Shabbos with Yehuda Green was incredible.
Flatbush families joined the gala dinner with their unaffiliated guests. “My husband’s co-worker wants to now join us again for Shabbos dinner and is now seriously looking to get married and start a Jewish family,” shared Chanah Kayman. Rabbi Duvi Bensoussan riveted the crowd with a story of how the power of Shabbos impacted a global business conference. Through with and humor he eloquently illustrated that Shabbos is irreplaceable and non-negotiable. He quoted Bill Gates, “it’s something money cannot buy.”
Dr. Jack Engelberg and his wife Gila also invited colleagues for the dinner. “It was an amazing opportunity to host a Yid for their first ever Shabbos meal”, he said.
Renowned speaker and author, Rav Daniel Glatstein, Morah d’Asra of Kehillas Ahavas Yisroel in Cedarhurst, was the scholar in residence for Shabbos. Rabbi Glatstein said, “I came thinking I would give Chizuk to others but I made a mistake. Instead, I received Chizuk and inspiration from BJX. To witness young men and women keeping Shabbos for the first time was an incredible inspiration. May BJX continue to elevate the Jewish people. If anyone out there hasn’t heard of BJX, they should get involved and help out because this is where Moshiach will come from.”
“My husband invited his unaffiliated colleague to the beautiful dinner. He was impressed and really into it. I met three young professionals all keeping their first Shabbos. Only BJX can pull off something like that,” said Mrs. Weiss.
Avrumi, a Flatbush resident who joined the community-wide Oneg was amazed by the diversity in the room. “Hashem must be smiling,” he said.
Close friends, mentors and supporters of the BJX family Mr. and Mrs. Ralph and Yenny Herzka and Mr. and Mrs. Dovid and Shayna Herzka joined the Oneg. The students were honored and excited to see them again.
“Brian, a secular young professional and owner of a national company texted me after the following after Shabbos, “Amazing Shabbat! Thank you!!!” His text to me was unsolicited. The three exclamation marks that he placed at the end of his thank you speaks volumes,” shared Rabbi Moshe Fingerer
“It was amazing to see how many people were keeping Shabbos together,” said Mr. Chaim Klein. “This was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life,” said Dennis S., an unaffiliated young professional in his twenties.
Mr. Zev Schwartz said, “BJX is the center of our community. They do gevaldig’eh work. We are very proud of them and we love them.”
“Those who participated in the Flatbush Shabbos Project saw firsthand how much our unaffiliated Achenu enjoyed Shabbos. Subsequently, I received many, many more -again unsolicited- thank you messages,” said Rabbi M. Fingerer.
“This was one of the most uplifting and spiritual experiences I’ve ever had,” shared Daniel who had his first Shabbos experience.
“As a result of the BJX Flatbush Shabbos Project, we have local public high school students ready to begin a Torah class, neighborhood college students eager to try another Shabbos, and Brooklyn young professionals interested in seriously exploring their heritage,” said Rabbi Fingerer.
Rabbi Yossi Glatstein, renowned Aish HaTorah and Discovery lecturer (father of special guest speaker over Shabbos, Rabbi Daniel Glatstein) shared: “I’m coming from one of the most amazing Kiruv experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve been zocheh to speak for Aish HaTorah in 300 cities around the world. But I must say that until this Shabbos, I have never seen such an outpouring of Ahavah and inspiration for Achenu Bnei Yisroel. One can honestly say that today young men and women are going through a Nisayon greater than the Akeidah. To attempt to bring Torah into someone’s life and marginalize technology and their distractions like cell phone and the Internet -and yet see how BJX has brought these same people to Torah, Mitzvos and Shmiras Shabbos- is remarkable. Literally, thousands of people in Flatbush were inspired. I have never been so inspired.”
“BJX is the solution. I wish that everyone should be able to experience what I have experienced at BJX. I want to thank Rabbis Fingerer for all that they do for me and everyone else,” said Alvin Lew.
“This was my first Jewish experience and I just feel great!” exclaimed Rachel. Yoram Nachimovsky enthused, “The experience was amazing. BJX should be supported in every which way. I thought it was wonderful.”
Shmulik Kleiner, president of the Agudah and Moshe Nussbaum gabbai of the Agudah helped coordinate the special Shalosh Seudos. At the Shalosh Seudos in Agudah, Rav Yitzchok Fingerer spoke about the survival of the world in precarious times and the hidden Tzaddikim in every generation. He then introduced Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff who spoke about Kiruv in Minneapolis and gave a drasha on the Parsha. Rav Glatstein, the guest speaker, spoke about feeling Hashem’s love. The next speaker was Daniel, a BJX student, who spent four year of his life a mere few blocks from the Agudah while he attended Edward R Murrow public high school. Today, he is a budding Talmud Chocham. He learned in yeshiva and now has two chavrusos each day. His speech startled everyone. He began by sharing a dvar Torah from Rav Shimon Shkop. Then he said, “The Yezter Hara got us. I was wondering why people support other institutions and organizations but don’t give their Tzedakah money to BJX. It’s all the Yetzer Hara. The Yetzer Hara knows that if you donate to BJX, the chances of someone becoming frum is 90 to 100%. The Yetzer fights this with all his power.”
World renowned singer Yehuda Green described the Shabbos as “eye-opening”. He said that he’s been around the world but saw something exceedingly unique in the way the Rabbis interact with everyone. Yehuda even felt drawn to sing a special song in honor of the Rov of BJX at Shalosh Seudos, highlighting his devotion to all Yidden.
“The BJX Flatbush Shabbos Project was the most amazing experience. It made me fall in love again with Shabbos. The achdus was absolutely amazing. It was a once in a lifetime experiece. If you weren’t here, you missed out. Support what BJX is doing and always be there for them,” said Mr. Ben Kafash.
“I never had a Shabbos like this. The entire Shabbos was just unbelievable!” said a young man.
This past Shabbos, I imagine over 1,000 people shared that very same sentiment.