Oorah Radiothon this Motzoei Shabbos: It’s Not Just a Show


oorahA young father sits in the cheder classroom among a few dozen other fathers. His son, just five years old, sits with his classmates at a make-shift dais. The little boy, wearing his Shabbos shirt and clean, pressed pants, walks up to the rebbi’s desk. The rebbi points to a place in the siddur – a line from the prayer “Ashrei” – and the boy reads the line slowly and cautiously.  The father’s heart overflows with pride and joy; a new link in his family’s chain of mesorah stands there before his eyes.

The scene depicted is a classic moment of Yiddishe nachas – the indescribable feeling of seeing one’s child blossom into a faithful, devoted Jew. But what of all the Jews who never learn Alef Bais, who never experience Shabbos or Yom Tov, who know nothing of kashrus, tznius or Torah learning? Their own parents may not know enough to feel the void, but in Shomayim, their Father is no doubt bereft.  Why are these lost children left to wander in the wilderness? Who will bring them back to their rightful place in Klal Yisroel?

This is the mission to which Oorah has been devoted for the past 30 years. And now, with the organization’s efforts expanded to include dozens of programs embracing well over a thousand Jews, barely a day goes by that does not produce a “nachas story.” 

Often, the story starts with Oorah’s most basic kiruv activity – enrolling public school children in yeshiva. It’s not always an easy sell for Oorah’s kiruv workers to convince Jewish parents that their children would benefit from the change. But once the parents agree and begin to see the results, they are often so moved and grateful that they find it difficult to express their feelings in words.

Hadar Lewis is one such mother. Although Oorah had been staying close to her family and nurturing a relationship with them for several years, Mrs. Lewis shied away from enrolling her three children in yeshiva. Finally, with one child struggling in public school, she decided to give it a try in hopes that the smaller, warmer environment would help. A few months into her children’s new school career at Sholom Torah Centers, she called Oorah to convey the gratitude in her heart:

“I want to tell you how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for us. Your organization is amazing…I don’t know how to thank you. All three kids are in Sholom Torah Centers and we love it. They are all doing beautifully. The oldest one was in gifted classes before, so some of the work is easy for him, but he’s being treated so nicely. Everyone is so friendly. I couldn’t ask for a better school.

“And the one who was having trouble is also doing beautifully now. The little one loves it. He wants to say berachot on everything – even his medicine!

“Without Oorah, this wouldn’t have been. The kids – just seeing them – I can’t tell you how wonderful it is…You know that you were following me for years. Three years ago we were going to do it and I wish I had done it then, because it’s such a turn-around for the kids. They’re so happy. And I’m happy to drive them to the bus every day. It’s the least I can do. I hope to continue their Jewish education through high school.

“Also, I want to tell you that they went to your Shabbaton. They had never been to one in their lives, and they had such a nice time. Thank you again a million times.”

A happy mother, three thriving children – a family transformed. And that is but one family among the hundreds for whom Oorah’s yeshiva enrollment has made a remarkable, indelible difference.

But even when it’s too late to start yeshiva, it’s never too late for a Jew to attach himself to Torah and mitzvos. Oorah’s TorahMates program sets up chavrusos for adults who want to learn. Both the men’s program and the women’s program have unlocked the treasure-chest of Jewish learning, observance, davening, values and ethics for hundreds of men and women across the country.

Rabbi Mordechai Beer, director of the men’s program, had the opportunity to see first-hand the elation of one TorahMates partner as he celebrated a major accomplishment in his learning.

“It was the Thursday of Chanukah. One of our TorahMates chavrusos, Matias Davidovsky, made a siyum. He hadn’t ever picked up a sefer until three years ago, and here he was being mesayeim an entire mesechta.  

“At the end of the siyum, he wanted to say a few words, and this is what he said: He compared the Torah to a vault and said that Oorah has given him the key to the vault – it gave him the key to the Torah. His chavrusah, R’ Akiva Weinberg, he compared to a tour guide who takes him through the vault and shows him all the precious gems that are in there.

“I spoke briefly after that and I compared him to the Chashmonaim who easily could have given up looking for the oil, believing it was impossible that there would be any left. But they kept looking, and we see from this that Hashem helps someone who tries to do a mitzvah. It’s the same in this case.  He persisted even though it was a hard thing to do, and he succeeded.  I presented him with a kos from Oorah and then everyone started dancing. He was dancing like a chosson. His wife and kids were beaming.”

In Oorah’s effort to open this “vault” to fellow Jews, it utilizes a variety of keys. For some, like Mr. Davidovsky, Torah learning is the right key. For others, it’s the emotional draw of an inspiring traditional Shabbos that opens the door.  Twice a year, Oorah brings together kiruv families with kiruv-oriented frum families to share a Shabbos together at Shabbat With Oorah. A fine hotel, gourmet food from Greenwald catering, inspiring divrei Torah, thought provoking “Ask the Rabbi” sessions, plus the infallible appeal of a beautiful davening and zemiros all work together to tug Jewish hearts in the right direction.

The presence of frum families enables kiruv families to make connections, find mentors, friends and learning partners, as well as to see the warmth and beauty of traditional Jewish family life. The event is often a launching point for a commitment to learning, for a decision to send a child to Oorah’s GirlZone or BoyZone summer camps, and sometimes to send a child to yeshiva. In many cases, the Shabbat With Oorah attendees already have children in school or camp through Oorah, and the Shabbos experience helps to bolster the commitment to Yiddishkeit for the family as a whole.

It was Shabbat With Oorah that reached the heart of Irene Goldfarb, mother of Hanna Goldfarb, a GirlZone camper. A week after the event, she was still soaring on the inspiration she felt that weekend:

“I just want to express my deepest thanks for this wonderful experience of the Shabbaton. I don’t have enough words to describe how I felt when I left. I had this feeling of elation for an entire week – it’s impossible to explain. I was just mesmerized. I have told everyone and anyone about it – friends, neighbors, acquaintances. It is just wonderful what Rabbi Mintz (Rav Chaim Mintz, Oorah’s founder) has created and the effect he has had on other people. It was an experience from another world. I wanted to let Rabbi Mintz know this. I will never forget it. This is something magical.

“The scenery, the feelings and the people I met, the numbers I exchanged – I hope I will keep in touch with some of them. This will have a big impact on my Jewish path and the path of my daughter. I want to instill this feeling of Judaism which unfortunately I grew up without. I hope I will continue on my Jewish path in life.”

For the hundreds of children in yeshiva under Oorah’s sponsorship, for the hundreds more who discover authentic Yiddishkeit at GirlZone and BoyZone, for the hundreds of adults learning with a TorahMates chavrusah, and those benefiting from 44 other Oorah programs, the Oorah Chinese Auction and Radiothon are the fuel that keeps the inspiration going.

Lives are changing every day. Lost Jews are reconnecting to their heritage, bringing nachas to their “Father.”  For the price of a $5 auction entry, every member of Klal Yisroel has the opportunity to be part of the success and share the nachas from Hashem’s returning children.

To hear live from Oorah families and volunteers, plus a whole line-up of renowned figures in the Torah world and Jewish entertainment, and the selection of the auction winners, tune into the Radiothon on Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai, May 16, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. EST. Check local listings for radio stations or tune in livestream at www.oorah.org. 

 {Elisha Ferber-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. why do we have to be woken up iin the middle of the night

    they have so much miney to buy Radio time for all those hours?


  3. it definitly struck me and many people i know as a santa hat. i have no idea who in the world thought of it or what the intention was for a jewish organizaition to advertise that way!?