New York—On Thursday, March 23, Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) celebrated 18 years of successful outreach at its annual dinner, held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Founded by Rabbi Mark Wildes in 1998, MJE has reconnected thousands of young men and women with Judaism and the Jewish community.
MJE celebrated its accomplishments with a record number of over 500 registered guests.
In his opening remarks, Rabbi Mark Wildes said, “Eighteen years, chai, Jewish life. That’s what we’re celebrating tonight. We are here to celebrate the hundreds of children born to the 279 MJE couples who now attend Jewish Day Schools; the thousands of 20s and 30s, who over the last 18 years have embraced Judaism in one way or another; the close to 50,000 attendees who have come to a Shabbat dinner at one of our three locations; the over 69,000 who have attended an MJE Torah class since we started back in 1998; the 161 fellows who have been in our advanced Jewish learning program, who devote three to four hours a week of Torah study; and the hundreds of others who have come on our retreats and our amazing trips to Israel. And we’re here tonight, not only to celebrate those impressive numbers, but to celebrate the relationships and the deep bonds that have developed and lasted for years. These have become the foundation for the very warm and vibrant community that we’ve all gotten used to at MJE.”
Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald received the Rabbinic Leadership Award. As one of the leaders in the movement of Jewish return in America today, Rabbi Buchwald has pioneered and developed many of the most dramatic and effective Jewish engagement programs, through his National Jewish Outreach Programs (NJOP).
“MJE is one of the most successful outreach/engagement centers, perhaps the most successful. You have taken Jewish engagement to a whole new level and we are so proud to be part of it,” said Rabbi Buchwald, addressing the crowd. “I don’t know if you all saw the video of Rabbi Wildes walking up and down the streets of the Upper West Side in his leather jacket. He is by far America’s coolest rabbi. May you and all those present be blessed. Mazal Tov on 18 years of incredible accomplishments.”
The video Buchwald referenced is a “Saturday Night Fever” parody made by MJE to promote the annual dinner. It has been viewed over 23,000 times and shared over 2000 times via Israel Video Network (The Jewish Saturday Night Fever Rabbi That Has Got Everyone Talking).
Other notable MJE members honored that night included two couples serving as the guests of honor: Dana Hiltzik, a speech pathologist, and her husband, Matthew, the CEO and president of Hiltzik Strategies, and Leigh and Daniel Waxman, both lawyers, who host MJE participants in their home. Emily and Andrew Weiss, who met at an MJE event, were honored as couple of the year. Heather Conn, an English teacher at Information Technology High School and Troy Valberg, a software salesman at Bluecore, one of NYC’s fastest-growing tech start-ups, were recognized for their participation as MJE students.
For more information, please visit www.jewishexperience.org.