By COLlive reporter
Over 40 friends and family of businessman and philanthropist R’ Shneur Hirsch OBM gathered for an evening of inspiration as they learned about Our Heritage, a program near and dear to Shneur’s heart before his untimely passing last year.
Founded in the summer of 5780 / 2020 in direct response to the COVID-19 school shutdown, Our Heritage saw a tremendous opportunity to open the doors of Jewish education to new families. The program offers a $25,000 grant to Chabad Jewish Day Schools who bring in 10 new Jewish students from public school.
Shneur was an early believer in the potential of the Our Heritage project and it was through his direct encouragement and generous support that the successful program was born. In 2021, the Our Heritage Program was dedicated in his memory, recognizing the key role Shenur played in its founding.
A full house gathered to learn firsthand stories of the impact Our Heritage has had on young Jewish children across North America. The guests shared memories of Shneur and honored his involvement in founding the project by investing in Our Heritage’s future.
Mr. Bob Aronson, chairman of Our Heritage, shared that the program is one of the best returns on investment for a philanthropist, practically paying for itself. “I have been in the Federation system all my life, and President of Birthright Israel for 10 years. This is the best and most effective Jewish fundraising project I have ever been involved in,” he shared “As it is literally sponsoring Jewish education with immediate results in the classroom.”
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky of Silverstein Hebrew Academy in Great Neck NY is the director of one of Our Heritage’s participating schools. He shared that though the program is young, it is already having a far-reaching impact not only on the children themselves, but in inspiring their families to increase their Jewish involvement as well.
Rabbi Geisinsky shared the individual story of one student who was able to transfer from a public school to a Jewish school, who then brought his entire family closer to Yiddishkeit. Jewish day schools are always in dire need of funding, and often they are forced to turn away students due to lack of space and funds for another building. At his, half of the student body receives scholarships, so funding such as the Our Heritage grants are crucial in opening the door for Jewish education.
“This year, we hope to continue Shneur’s legacy by expanding the program with the goal of enrolling 200 new students,” says Rabbi Zalman Shneur, executive director of the Menachem Education Foundation (MEF) and a close friend of his. “To reach this ambitious goal, we need dedicated supporters who can help us open new avenues of Jewish possibility.” Inspired by the enormous impact of the grant program, attendees generously committed over $200,000 to help fund the Our Heritage program in 5782/2021.
The keynote speaker Rabbi Shais Taub had a call to action for participants. “For years, people can search for meaning, trying to find out why we are here. At any given moment, we ask ourselves, what is our purpose? And at this moment, the fact that you are here, is very clear – your purpose is to donate to this special cause, to allow Yiddishkeit to blossom, to make an even stronger future Jewish generation, where people know about their heritage and are proud of being Jewish.”
A lively farbrengen in honor of Chai Elul concluded the evening, with joyous nigunim and personal stories of connection and impact through chinuch.