Just One Word


inspireSomething as easy as a single word, a smile, or a small gift has the power to change someone’s entire life.

Yosef had recently arrived at a new yeshiva in Queens, NY. In lieu of a regular dorm, the yeshivabochurim were housed in a large three-story house on Main Street, next door to the yeshiva. The “dorm” shared a large porch with an elderly Holocaust survivor in his eighties, the infamous Mr. Schwartz, known to the bochurim simply as the “old man.” When Yosef arrived, he was emphatically warned by the other students to stay away from the “old man” at all costs.      “He hates religious Jews, especially bochurim from the yeshiva,” they told him. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll ignore him completely.”

Despite the warnings, Yosef decided to try his luck with a warm, friendly hello the next time he bumped into his new neighbor while coming up the porch stairs. Mr. Schwartz ignored his greeting as if it hadn’t happened. Most people would have quit then, but Yosef didn’t give up easily. He made it his business to continue to greet his neighbor kindly whenever their paths would cross, regardless of the response, which was basically non-existent.

Finally, after several weeks of this, something amazing happened. His neighbor responded to one of Yosef’s greetings with a simple “hello.” From that moment on, their relationship began to steadily blossom. After a month, they were having regular conversations, and before long, a genuine friendship had developed. Yosef soon introduced Mr. Schwartz to the rosh yeshiva and mashgiach and his entire demeanor changed towards the yeshiva.

Towards the end of Yosef’s second year in the yeshiva, Mr. Schwartz was diagnosed with cancer. It pained Yosef that he would soon be leaving the yeshiva and would be returning back home, far away from Queens, NY, and far from his new friend. When the summer zeman finally came to an end, Yosef said farewell to Mr. Schwartz, introducing him to a few of the new bochurim, who promised to look after him in Yosef’s place. That summer, Yosef got engaged and, to his great joy, Mr. Schwartz was able to attend the wedding. Mr. Schwartz danced like it was his own grandson’s wedding. His simcha was immeasurable.

As the year went on, the two kept in touch through regular phone conversations. Yosef made sure to call every week without fail. Then, one week, there was no answer. He feared the worst. He called the rosh yeshiva who informed him that his elderly friend had taken a turn for the worse and had been admitted to one of the nearby hospitals.

Yosef would never forget the phone call he received on Asara B’Teves. The rosh yeshiva had just gotten back from visiting Mr. Schwartz at the hospital and related their conversation. The words he said would forever ring in Yosef’s ears.

“Rabbi,” Mr. Schwartz told the rosh yeshiva, “because of Yosef, if I could do it over again, I would be religious…”

He passed away later that night at the age of 87. He died having done teshuva gemurah.

At the levaya, Yosef asked Mr. Schwartz’s son why he had had such a profound effect on his father. He was shocked by the response: “Because you cared.”


We have misconceptions about kiruv. We think that kiruv is challenging, time consuming, and that it can only be done by “kiruv professionals.” We think that it’s about preaching and making someone frum. Nothing could be further from the truth. As exemplified by Yosef’s story, kiruv is as easy as offering a smile and a kind word to someone who’s not yet frum. Yosef never dreamed of getting anyone to do teshuvah. He was just a mentch. Our job is to take responsibility and make an effort. Hashem does the rest.

Project Inspire was conceived to empower and educate frum Jews to take responsibility for caring and reaching out to our non-frum brethren. We all have the ability to do it successfully. We come in contact with non-frum Jews on a daily basis, in the workplace, at the doctor’s office and on line at the supermarket, but few of us take notice. All it takes to make a positive impact is a friendly hello or a show of interest and concern for them. It’s quick, non-threatening and, most importantly, natural.

The Yomim Tovim provide easy outreach opportunities. To make it even easier, Project Inspire has launched a great first-step kiruv initiative, appropriately entitled, “Easy Outreach.” Project Inspire produces small, inexpensive gift packages that embody the theme of the Yom Toiv together with a beautiful and informative card explaining the essence of the Yom Tov. With very little effort, you’ve helped recipients feel connected to Yiddishkeit and to frum Jews. The impact can be as small as a warm feeling or as large as the inspiration to observe some part of the Yom Tov in a more meaningful manner. Most important, however, is the kesher that it builds, forming the basis for further communication, tolerance, and a closer relationship.


This coming Purim, Easy Outreach is offering beautifully prepared mishloach manos. The package contains a plethora of introductory information about Purim, with fun facts about the Purim story and the mitzvos hayom, written in a clear and relatable style. Inside are delicious pareve fudge cookies, hamantashen, and chocolate. Project Inspire will send it directly to the homes of the recipients of your choice. It might be the first step in eventually changing someone’s life.

During Project Inspire’s Rosh Hashanah campaign, hundreds of people across America gave out gifts to non-frum people in their communities. The reactions were beyond any of their greatest expectations. One woman recalled giving them out to her co-workers at the office.

“Each recipient was not only thankful, but deeply moved,” she said. “A few even cried! I am amazed at how people who are so removed from Judaism deep down inside want so much to be recognized as being Jewish by an observant Jew.”

Another person sent one to a not-yet-frum relative who called him up and thanked him profusely for the gift as if he had given her a million dollars.

“This was the most treasured and meaningful gift I have ever received in my life,” she said. “It truly touched my heart.”

Something as simple as a small gift can be the first step to begin a valuable relationship, and can greatly alter the way a non-frum person views Orthodox Jews. The following story exemplifies the true power of Easy Outreach:

It was difficult for the Goldbergs to move into their new home. The street was composed primarily of older secular Jews who had built the street up themselves decades ago and they were resentful of all the young frum families moving into the neighborhood. Many of the neighbors had a hard time accepting the new arrivals. One of the neighbors, Mrs. Bloom, gave them a harder time than the rest. She was an elderly lady, who would continuously comment on the state of their lawn, calling the city about the slightest infringement. The result was a mutually distant and slightly resentful relationship that lasted for the next few years.

After hearing about Easy Outreach at a Project Inspire kiruv training seminar, Mrs. Goldberg decided to buy one of the Rosh Hashanah gifts to give to her neighbor. Despite the butterflies in her stomach, Mrs. Goldberg finally got the nerve to deliver the present a few days before Rosh Hashanah. When Mrs. Bloom opened the card, her eyes filled with tears and she couldn’t stop thanking Mrs. Goldberg for being so thoughtful. Taken aback by the warm reaction, Mrs. Goldberg asked her to join them for a meal on Sukkos. Mrs. Bloom was honored and was smiling from ear to ear. The meal was wonderful and it was nice for them to finally get to know each other after all those years. As she was leaving, Mrs. Bloom turned to her gracious hostess and said, “Honey, I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me. This meal did more for me than my Temple’s holiday services – I didn’t really feel the high holidays until now.” Now Mrs. Goldberg was the one with tears in her eyes.

This is what Easy Outreach is all about. Kiruv is about planting a seed.  There’s no end to the possibilities of what can sprout forth from your small effort.

Order your Easy Outreach mishloach manos today at www.kiruv.com or by calling 646.461.3339.

Project Inspired also offers free kiruv training seminars, inspirational and informative films, kiruv tools, coaching, and Shabbatons. For more creative and easy ideas about how to start reaching out or to sign up for the Project Inspire newsletter, visit www.kiruv.com.

{Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Not to take away from Project Inspire’s kiruv message, I’d like to add that being a mensch, showing kindness and saying hello to newcomers applies not only to kiruv rechokim, but is how one ought to behave towards frum people as well: the unfamiliar face in shul, the new neighbor on the block, the sick person or his/her spouse who may feel isolated, the newly widowed and so on. Don’t leave it to the chessed organizations. It is YOU who can make a difference by showing you care!