Light. Warmth. Conviction. Inner meaning. These words are readily associated with Yiddishkeit, yet there is one Mitzvah in particular that captures them all in one moving image: lighting Shabbos candles.
The Rebbe saw this Mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles as a window. A Mitzvah that does not only welcome Shabbos into our home, but invites us to reflect on our role as Jewish women. It turns Shabbos into the focal point of our week, and it turns a Mitzvah into the linchpin of our Jewish identity.
The Rebbe encouraged women the world over to share and spread the beauty of this Mitzvah with others. But it is a fast paced and frenetic lifestyle that the younger generation lives in, how can the beauty and meaning of this Mitzvah (and yiddishkeit in general) be communicated most effectively?
Brush Hour is a new program that has tackled this very challenge. It empowers every young woman to be an ambassador of warmth and light, and to communicate the beauty of Neiros Shabbos Kodesh (Neshek) to their fellow girls everywhere.
Young Jewish Leaders (YJL), is an organization that seeks to empower our youth as the next generation of leaders. For young men, there is a remarkably successful model in place that facilitates a mivtzoim/outreach program by providing resources, educational material, and the infrastructure for these students to become leaders by sharing the mitzvah of tefillin or a dvar torah and inspiring the businessmen they meet across New York City.
YJL sought to create a program that would give young women a similar opportunity. A program that would empower them as leaders, and allow them to share the unique feminine perspective in yiddishkeit, as well as the incredible experience of a Mitzvah.
Thus, Brush Hour was born. A program that encourages young women and students in Jewish schools to spread the Mitzvah of Neshek, and the richness of Yiddishkeit, with their peers across their cities and beyond.
Brush Hour encourages high school students to become ambassadors, by internalizing the meaning of Neshek and then bringing it to other girls who have not had the opportunity to engage with this unique mitzvah. They begin by expressing the beauty of that special moment of lighting Shabbos candles through various creative mediums, such as painting, writing and multimedia presentations.
Packing up their canvases, slideshow and paint night equipment, these motivated young girls then take to the road, working with Jewish teen programs located in their area. They pull off beautifully curated Brush Hour events from start to finish, including setting up, orchestrating a candle lighting-themed paint night, and presenting and connecting to their fellow girls.
The program initially launched in Bais Rivkah High School of Crown Heights, with students visiting surrounding Jewish teen programs, and was met with incredible success. “This is something that has not been done enough in the past,” says Tzivi Baumgarten, Shlucha in Great Neck, NY. “The combined energy of the Crown Heights girls with our CTeen girls was so powerful!”
From the start, Brush Hour has seen a dizzying growth; while only beginning last year, they have already been to over 30 Cteen branches!
After continuing the program in Bais Rivkah this year, Brush Hour has gone on to launch in Monsey Bais Chaya Mushka High School as well. In addition, Brush Hour has now become an international initiative, with a brand-new branch just launching in Bais Chomesh girls school of Toronto!
Baruch Hashem, there have already been over 30 Cteen events this year, with over 600 high school girls having signed up to be ambassadors of this powerful Mivtza! In the words of Mushka Horowitz (‘22-23 Brush Hour leader): “Being a Brush Hour leader has been so empowering. It brings out everything the Rebbe has trained us to do- we are truly leaders, creating other leaders. We are literally giving teens the match, so they can light theirs and others’ matches too.”
Brush Hour can be implemented in any Jewish school; it enhances the young students’ appreciation for the Mitzvah of Neshek, while motivating them to become leaders in their own right. It deepens the engagement they have with their own Yiddishkeit, while empowering them to share its beauty with students and teenagers from all walks of life.
Not stopping at just a paint night, these high school ambassadors make a significant effort to keep in touch with the new friends they meet at these events, endeavoring to continue the inspiration by encouraging them to light Shabbos candles and stay proud in their Judaism. Each week, Shabbos-themed artwork created by Brush Hour participants are featured across various social media platforms, ensuring that the word is being spread to keep lighting Shabbos candles, while simultaneously creating a community for teens to continue to engage with and inspire each other.
Brush Hour has also come back to revisit those same CTeen chapters and continue with other events, in order to keep up the connection between the ambassadors and Jewish teenagers. From the Launch Event Paint Night to Shabbos-themed Masterchef competitions, along with Brush Hour events throughout the year, they continue to foster the connection, consistently showing up as a positive influence on their peers.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I was; I was blown away,” says Estie Orenstein, Shlucha in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. “They explained Shabbos in such a beautiful way and did an amazing job, far beyond their years. Their warmth and message truly inspired the teens!”
This year, Brush Hour is launching “A Day in the Heights,” showcasing the art created over the past year. It will also be an opportunity for visiting teenagers to enjoy a day in Crown Heights, focused on experiences that empower and educate them as proud Jewish girls. This will include visits to a Mikvah, kosher shops, and a grand dinner, in which outstanding Brush Hour participants will be honored and celebrated.
Brush Hour is open to visiting schools and community centers. For more info and to launch a chapter, contact Mushka at [email protected] or WhatsApp +1 (609) 766-5822.
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