(Courtesy of MJE) The Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) will celebrate 19 years of successful outreach at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (36 Battery Place, NYC) on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Founded by Rabbi Mark Wildes in 1998, MJE is a highly successful outreach program that has reconnected thousands of young men and women with Judaism and the Jewish community and provided a venue through which 290 couples have met or married.
This year’s theme is “Classes for Life,” highlighting MJE’s devotion to excellence in teaching and learning. The diversity and range of MJE classes cater to beginners exploring Jewish life and to those with background looking to learn more, with a dedicated staff ready to welcome all young Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s.
MJE Fellowships, now in its 11th year with 190 graduates to date, is a select cadre of MJE participants with little or no prior Jewish education who have expressed a desire to move their Jewish learning to the next level.
Playing off the education theme, MJE recently released a Rocky parody video, already garnering more than 35k hits on Facebook. In the spoof, Rabbi Mark “Rocky” Wildes, founder and director of MJE, plays a fierce spiritual trainer getting back the eye of the tiger as he motivates MJE beginners to go the distance in their Jewish education.
The MJE Annual Dinner will be honoring local New Jersey couple Jennifer and Erik Schetina as “Alumni of the Year.” Erik and Jen met at a Torah class given in the summer of 2013, at an MJEr’s apartment on the Upper West Side. They ran into each other at Shabbat dinners and get-togethers over the next few months. In March of 2014, Erik finally asked Jennifer out, and five months later they were married. They have two sons, Albie and baby Ben.
Eighteen years ago, Jen attended her first MJE service on the fourth floor of The Jewish Center. Over the years, Jen joined one-on-one learning, was an MJE Fellow, and attended countless Torah classes and Shabbat meals. She went on two MJE trips to Israel, one for the first time since high school, and marched with Rabbi Wildes in the Israel Day Parades.
As Jen asserted, “If MJE put it on, I went to it! I was at every retreat, party and dinner.” After getting engaged to Jen, Erik was introduced to (and vetted by) Rabbi Wildes, and has been an honorary MJEer ever since. Together Jen and Erik continue to enjoy Jewish learning, attending classes and hosting Shabbat meals. They still find themselves searching for an “MJE in the Burbs.”
Other distinguished honorees at MJE’s Annual Dinner include Tracy and Sander Gerber for historic work on the Taylor Force Act. Taylor Force was an off-duty service member visiting Israel in March of 2016 as part of a Vanderbilt University study group examining global entrepreneurship when he was murdered in the streets of Tel Aviv in an act of terrorism. The act prohibits economic aid from being made available for the West Bank and Gaza unless the Department of State certifies that the Palestinian Authority terminates pay for slay practices that reward individuals who commit acts of terrorism and the families of deceased terrorists.
Additional notable honorees are Jodi and Adam Weinstein as Guest of Honor, Rabbanit Malke Bina for Women’s Torah Leadership, Barrie Weinstein and Avi Ishofsky as Couple of the Year, and Danny Hackman for Student of the Year.
MJE’s founder Rabbi Mark Wildes had this to say: “MJE’s dinner this year shines a spotlight on all of MJE’s innovative educational programming that has transformed the lives of thousands of students each year. Programs like one-on-one learning, fellowships, basic Judaism and Hebrew classes provide young Jewish professionals without a formal Jewish educational background the knowledge and inspiration to live a more informed and committed Jewish life.”
With three sites in different neighborhoods in New York City, MJE’s effectiveness in engaging young Jewish women and men emerges from its warm and open environment, its array of stimulating and innovative social and educational programming including Shabbat dinners, dynamic Torah study classes, retreats and trips to Israel, and by creating a community.
To watch the Rocky spoof, visit: http://bit.ly/2IanrBT.