By COLlive reporter
Two days preceding Gimmel Tammuz, 300 people gathered at the TWA Hotel ballroom at JFK Airport in New York for a moving and inspiring gala dinner in support of the JEM Foundation.
Members and prospective members of the Foundation were treated to an evening of inspiration featuring videos of the Rebbe, music and a presentation outlining the next frontiers in JEM’s work to share the Rebbe with ever-larger audiences in ever-more-meaningful ways.
The evening included video interviews by JEM of individuals’ recollections of the Rebbe, including Rabbi Shmuel Chaim Scharf, a Mashpia at the Lubavitch Mesivta in Chicago, who recalled his childhood as a young boy in 770, when the Rebbe ‘adopted’ and showed great love and care to he and his siblings after his father’s passing in 5750 (1989).
“As a result of experiences that I had with the Rebbe at such a young age, at such a vulnerable time,” said Rabbi Scharf, “from Gimmel Tammuz onward I have an ache in my heart. I need that Kedusha and the strength that the Rebbe gave us. I need that clarity. When my wife and I were blessed with our kinderlach, that yearning was channeled into a tremendous conviction that I HAVE to bring the Rebbe to my children.”
In the hallowed glow of the candle lit room of the TWA Hotel, the only sound you could hear as he spoke were Rabbi Scharf’s soft-spoken words. “We were determined that our children should have the Rebbe’s truth and enthusiasm. The Rebbe’s passion for what it means to be a Yid,” he said.
The evening opened with powerful melodic niggunim sung by world-renowned Jewish music star Avraham Fried.
Josh Goldhirsch, a founding member of the JEM Foundation, opened the evening by proclaiming, “One of the most important components of JEM’s mandate is to curate and deliver content of the Rebbe and his teachings in the most effective and immersive way possible. Engaging our current generation with material and inspiration is difficult enough.
“JEM continues to push the envelope so that not only can we retell history, but as best as possible have audiences transport themselves to meaningful and impactful experiences by bringing together farbrengens, interviews, storytelling, sounds and images where the audience is totally immersed and – hopefully – inspired,” he said.
Rabbi Yechiel Cagen, director of the My Encounter Project and Associate Director of the JEM Foundation, presented a roundup of some highlights of JEM’s accomplishments over the past year and the astounding numbers of JEM’s growing reach.
”There is virtually not a single Gimmel Tammuz event in the world,” proclaimed Rabbi Cagen, “that does not feature video, audio or photos that have been curated and translated by JEM.”
There have been 1,703 ‘My Encounter with the Rebbe’ interviews to date, many of which have been featured in the ‘Here’s My Story’ series, which has more than 220,000 weekly readers and has been curated into the two volumes of the “My Story” books.
The Living Torah Series, the crown jewel of JEM, is in its 21st year and every week a new documentary of the Rebbe is released.
After a massive push a few months ago, some 2,013 new families joined JEM.tv over a two-week period.
Connection Point, which helps children connect to the Rebbe in a meeting of minds, teaches children how to learn directly from the Rebbe. Children are excited when, through the year, they attain the skills to understand the Rebbe’s words. The program now has 77 affiliate schools with 5,051 children worldwide.
To date, JEM has published the full-length video of 127 Farbrengens, rallies and parades with the Rebbe, in addition to thousands of other scenes. In the past year, JEM provided over 2,700 outside projects and individuals with research and production assistance for recorded materials of the Rebbe.
Bringing the Rebbe’s words to the outer reaches of society, JEM has some staggering numbers: over 35 million views on YouTube between all its channels, and one of its seven Facebook pages alone has over 7 million views in the past 24 months.
Rabbi Elkanah Shmotkin, Executive Director of the JEM Foundation, quoted on a point of the last Maamar the Rebbe distributed. “Moshe Rabbenu’s job is to imbue the Jewish people with faith in Hashem,” he said. “The Jewish people in turn, must assist Moshe to achieve what he needs to achieve.”
He went on to present JEM’s vision for upcoming content and technology projects. Rabbi Shmotkin recognized the team of over 40 full time content and production experts from around the world that make up the JEM team. The produce JEM films, conduct interviews, research and translate, and so much more.
In a moving tribute to Mr. Sami Rohr, whose tenth Yahrzeit will be observed this summer, a classic Yiddish song, Oib Nisht Kein Emina, sung beautifully by Avraham Fried, translated and illustrated by JEM through photos of Mr. Rohr’s lifetime.
JEM remembered “Reb Shmuel” as a regular viewer of Living Torah and other videos of the Rebbe, and the father of philanthropist George Rohr, who was thanked for his support over the past 25 years, “for standing with JEM at the forefront” and investing in their mission, “seeing to it that the Rebbe’s teachings, inspiration and life story are preserved and shared to as wide an audience as possible.”
Ari Greenwald of West Lake Village, CA, a founding member of the JEM Foundation, recalled fondly how the Rebbe said when speaking about how to connect to the Frierdiker Rebbe, that those who had never seen him should connect to him through a picture.
“The Rebbe showed us how to connect, and JEM heeded that call,” he said. “JEM finds themselves in a time of innovation and continues to deliver the Rebbe and his teachings in a most effective and beautiful way.”
“There is no organization in the world that helps the people understand that to the Rebbe, every single one of us matters,” Rabbi Levi Wolff, shliach in Sydney, Australia, said.
“JEM has an understanding and a brief that they want to bring the Rebbe’s vision and the Rebbe’s inspiration beyond just the Lubavitcher world. Some people think that the Rebbe is the Rebbe of Chabad, but the Rebbe belongs to the entire world. The Rebbe is the world’s Rebbe. JEM makes the dream of bringing the Rebbe to the world a reality. JEM brings the Rebbe to people, places, countries, that only they can reach.” Rabbi Wolf urged JEM Foundation members to move up to a higher level of support, and non-members to join the Foundation with a three-year commitment.
Rabbi Scharf emotionally shared a weekly scene from him own home. “Every Motzei Shabbos, we set the table nicely. We make havdala and we wash and have a meal. We turn off all the lights and put on The Living Torah for our children. At that moment, there is nothing else going on in the room besides the Rebbe. I watch my children watching the Rebbe and I cry tears of joy. My kids have the Rebbe.
“It is no secret that JEM became so much a part of Lubavitch that people don’t even think twice about it. The amount of hours that the Bochurim in my Yeshiva spend with the Rebbe, we just take for granted that JEM has this endless flow of content and with subtitles!”
He concluded saying, “Hashem inspired the creators of JEM to build this Mosad and expand it because Hashem wants Klal Yisroel to have the Rebbe.”
As the hugely inspiring evening came to a close, numerous individuals did just that, supporting the Foundation which serves as “the fuel tank” providing JEM with funding to continue and expand its work.
The event’s corporate sponsors were Dealmed Medical Supplies, Fox Business Funding and Brooklyn Brokerage.
Artistic Director: Ronen Peled Hadad – Aranen creative productions.