The JHC After 25 Years – These are the Things Which Have no Shiur

This past Shabbos my wife and I had the pleasure of celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Jewish Heritage Center (JHC) of Queens & Long Island with 300 people at a Shabbaton in Sommerset, NJ. Many of the people there have been close friends over the years. Some have moved from the JHC’s home base of Kew Gardens Hills, to other BT centers like Passaic, the Five Towns or West Hempstead, but on Shabbos it felt that we’re still all together. Twenty five hours of Shabbos was way too short to appreciate and enjoy the bonds we’ve built over these past 25 years.

The JHC was initially the idea of Dov Wollowitz. He wasn’t hampered by resource allocation questions, to him it was clear that bringing people back to Judaism is something that must be done, and he convinced three of his friends to pony up some serious money to bring that idea to fruition. He approached two young Smicha graduates from Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Moshe Turk and Rabbi Naftoli Portnoy to co-direct the endeavor. And as they put it, the rest was just not normal, event after event, miracle after miracle, Hashem clearly shined His countenance on this holy endeavor.

When I looked around the dining room at the couples and families, who are only a fraction of the 1800 people the JHC has worked closely with over the years, it became even clearer that there is no way to measure the ROI (return of investment) that the founders, and the JHC staff, who have dedicated their lives to helping people like us, have received. When it comes to matters of the spirit, and the spiritual accomplishments of entire families, there is no measure. There is no exchange rate from the physical to the spiritual.

On the BT side, this BT crowd had no buyer’s remorse. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Everybody has had trials and tribulation in at least one of the major areas of finance, health or raising children. And the lack of a family support network and the inevitable plateuaing has made things even harder. But as a close FFB friend said during Shabbos, it’s not really a sacrifice that we’ve made, these struggles themselves are essential to our spiritual accomplishments.

A final point that became clear is to step back when evaluating our Kiruv coaches and mentors. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to encourage more pro-active follow up, or treatment as true first-class citizens, or more resources for later stage BTs. What it does mean is that we have to look beyond the less than perfect aspects, and see the individuals who have literally invested a piece of their souls in us. They have often sacrificed their own growth to water ours. They care about us more than we will ever know and for that we owe them a spiritual debt which can’t be repaid in this world.

So on behalf on my wife, myself and the collective souls of any BTs that wish to participate, WE GIVE THANKS TO THE JHC and ALL THE KIRUV PROFESSIONALS for all you’ve done and continue to do for us!

2 comments on “The JHC After 25 Years – These are the Things Which Have no Shiur

  1. The Shabbaton was truly an amazing event. Not only because we could look back and see how much everyone has grown, but at least for myself, speaking with various people this past Shabbos I’ve begun to realize that rather than having been a taker all these years while trying to play catch up with everyone else, I’ve actually been inspiring others without realizing it.

    To me the turning point was when a close FFB friend told me how inspiring it is for him to see me in his daf yomi shiur and then giving me a big hug with tears in his eyes. Wow! that’s an eye opener. Here I am with a confused look on my face struggling just to keep the place and trying to get a basic understanding of what’s going on and I’m inspiring him? As Devorah said, that’s something that melts away insecurities and build self-confidence. This morning, suddenly the daf looked different and I felt different too.

    The Shabbaton was really inspiring. I hope I can hold on to that feeling until the next Alumni reunion (or at least until Rosh Hashanah)!

  2. It was truly wonderful to be there and be part of the JHC Klal, even when we had moved away 11 years and 3 children ago. Roots hold strong, and the strength of Torah in our mentor kiruv Rabbis and Rebbetzins have given us chizuk to this day.
    We are very grateful, and realize there are many FFBs who never had opportunities for such inspiration. And I also felt reassured that my kids, children of BTs, will be okay, because we really are ok too. B”H, I felt the melting of insecurities and the building of self-confidence. Thanks again, JHC.


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