Good evening and welcome to Jew in the City’s 6th Annual All Star Awards – the greatest night in orthodox jewish professional success.
I tend to write speeches last minute and as I was deciding what I wanted to say, a wave of panic swept across me as I wondered if we remembered to schedule this event in close enough proximity to a Jewish holiday that had an appropriate thematic tie in to the evening.
I was relieved when I realized that Chanukah is nearly upon us, which gives me plenty of material. Chanukah is the festival of lights – and our all stars past and present – radiate a light that is sparked by their Judaism. For them, being Jewish allows them to use their talents to better the world, their faith and observance gives their success both meaning and grounding, and their conviction earns the respect of their colleagues.
Like the flames we kindle on Chanukah, the light of the all stars, illuminates and inspires others around them, without diminishing their flames.
.On Chanukah, we are commanded to publicize the light, and we at Jew in the City, publicize the light of the All Stars, so that the world knows how beautiful, meaningful and enjoyable a life of Torah and mitzvos can be.
And finally, the light of Chanukah commemorates a miracle from days of old. When we consider that our people has been nearly snuffed out time and time again in this long and painful exile, it is nothing short of a miracle that proud and observant Jews could stand here today, with some of the world’s leading companies and organizations accommodating their religious needs.
To this year’s All Stars, mazal tov on this well-deserved honor and thank you for making the time and taking the great effort to be interviewed and to travel here from all over the world. May you continue to reach the highest levels of accomplishment in your professional lives in order to be a kiddush Hashem and inspire others by your example.
But as we bask in and enjoy this light, we would be remiss if we did not speak about the people who have lived Jewishly their whole lives, yet experienced Judaism only as darkness.
While the majority of people in the frum world are leading happy and meaningful lives, the individuals who seek out our help at Project Makom unfortunately had a different experience. Tragically, whether because of dysfunction in their families, trauma at school, or just questions and doubts that people in their worlds didn’t know how to deal with, they only knew a Judaism based on guilt, fear, control, and in many cases abuse by religious figures.
It is these dark experiences, that spread to the media and cast a shadow of pain over our entire community, causing less knowledgeable Jews to believe that a Torah life is a miserable one. At Makom, we help our members see and experience Judaism as we do, with love and joy and positivity. We help shift the darkness to light, by setting them up for Shabbos in homes filled with warmth and acceptance, teaching them a Torah of complexity and meaning, introducing them to a loving God, who will never forsake them, and building a community of likeminded people who lived through painful experiences but are choosing to heal and build a positive relationship with Judaism.
To simply run away from a traumatic past is not really a plan. Which is why we hope that examples like our All Stars, now 6 years strong, will guide our Project Makom members (many who are here tonight) towards goals of forging a new path, so that they can find their place.
Without further ado, we are delighted to present you with Jew in the City’s 6th class of Orthodox Jewish all stars.