Matthew Shuchman, a management consultant in Hollywood, Florida, took a course at the Boca Raton branch of the Jewish Learning Institute two years ago with instructor Rabbi Ruvi New. The course gave him an insight into Judaism that he had never encountered, and led him, his family and his friends to a deeper, more profound involvement in Jewish life and tradition.
At the 4th annual Jewish Learning Institute Conference in Summit, New Jersey, on Aug.12-13, he shared his enthusiasm for the JLI, and his expertise in the marketing and management world, with sixty-five Chabad Rabbis, all directors and teachers in branches of the JLI worldwide.
“I believe that the Jewish Learning Institute is the answer for thousands of English-speaking Jews who are literally thirsting for knowledge and spirituality,” he told the conference participants, “If we can sell it right in today’s cutthroat marketplace, we will no doubt be successful in reaching these people.”
The two day conference offered JLI instructors the opportunity to fully acquaint themselves with the curricula for the coming year and learn practical techniques and strategies for marketing the courses in their city and presenting them in a user-friendly, professional manner.
Rabbi Heshy Epstien introduced the JLI to Columbia, South Carolina, where he serves as director of Chabad activities, three years ago, and says he has received an “extremely positive response” ever since. “The JLI is a fantastic way to sustain an individual’s interest in Judaism for a long period of time, with an organized, systematic approach to learning,” he says, “It provides participants with a sophisticated, enjoyable learning experience.”
The conference, he says, gave him insight into the many resources available to him for advertising the courses, including personal emails, the central JLI website, and various printed material. “It’s very energizing to see so many other Chabad Rabbis achieving tremendous successes with the JLI in their respective cities,” he says, “It gives you a real boost in your own work.”
For a newcomer to the JLI scene like Rabbi Yossi Kaplan of Wayne, PA, the conference offered him a complete perspective on the curriculum and setup of the courses he has scheduled to present to his constituents this fall. Curriculum overviews presented by the course authors gave him an in-depth knowledge of the material, he says.
Rabbi Shlomo Uminer of Palm City, FL, concurs. “Learning the material from its authors, which can only be done in a conference setting, provides you with a thorough understanding of the subject matter and enhances a dynamic student-teacher dialogue that typically follows the class lecture,” he says.
Sessions presented by Rabbi Berel Bell, author of the latest JLI course, titled From Sinai to Cyberspace: The Development and Relevance of Jewish Law, were particularly well received by participants.
Delegates from the UJC- Jewish Renaissance and Renewal Division who visited the conference were impressed by the caliber of the courses. “There was a real sense of a shared venture,” says Rabbi Efraim Mintz, of the Shluchim Office, which created the JLI and sponsored this conference. “It was a terrific opportunity for a lot of networking. Shluchim were constantly exchanging notes, experiences and tips for success throughout the conference.”
Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, director of Chabad in Oklahoma City, OK, expressed the sentiments of many in the audience when he thanked the JLI team for “raising Chabad of Oklahoma City to a completely different level and for the contributions of key supporters who became involved with Chabad as a direct result of the JLI courses held in the city.”
The Shluchim Office is a division of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch.