Greenwood Village, DENVER—The times are difficult, but the timing is ideal: Aish of the Rockies launched its brand-new website (www.AishRockies.org) shortly before the coronavirus forced its cadre of clergy and Jewish educators to transition their programs to a virtual format. With synagogues, Jewish community centers, and almost all other community institutions suspending their in-person operations across the country and around the world, the newly rebranded and expanded Aish of the Rockies had the technology in place for what is now a plethora of Web-based offerings from Hebrew school and virtual get-togethers for teens to advanced Torah classes and sessions on bolstering emotional well-being.
“The new website is aesthetically beautiful, it’s informative, and it has enabled us to open our ‘windows’ – our portal – and share the light and inspiration that are usually contained within four walls,” Rabbi Yaakov Meyer, founder and rabbi of the organization, explained.
The organization’s branches, including The Shul, are offering various support, resources, and online learning opportunities. On the first Friday of this new reality, dozens of households joined leading educator Rochel Goldbaum for a “Judaism Alive!” on preparing spiritually for Shabbat under the new circumstances, and another 57 tuned in the same day for pre-sundown Kabbalat Shabbat led by Rabbi Meyer. Lay leaders, such as Finance Committee member Darren Finke, have also offered their expertise to fellow community members.
“We may not have been able to meet in person, but that did not stop our Aish community from connecting to Torah learning and to each other!” Mrs. Goldbaum reflected. “We met over Zoom, before Shabbos, for our weekly dose of inspiration.”
Aish of the Rockies anticipates that participation will grow as Covid-containment increases and as word of these and other ongoing programs spreads. In fact, the unexpected shift is further motivating the organization to fulfill its mission of reaching a broader range of people – beyond Southeast Denver – as reflected by the new name and logo. Herschel Leiner, president of H. Leiner & Co., who has been serving as a consultant on the nonprofit’s transformation, coined the term “Aish without walls.”
Youth – home from school and seeking social connection – have gravitated to Aish of the Rockies’ Virtual Lattes & Learning program, “a fun and exciting way for Jewish teens to bond, learn, and teach Torah in a way that allows them to connect to their Judaism and heritage,” reported Rabbi Yonatan Nuszen, the youth rabbi and NCSY liaison.
Individuals and families can find stories and classes at AishRockies.org/calendar and JOIDenver.com around the clock, with links to Aish Global offerings as well. Programs include Reb Zvi Gelt’s daily Daf Yomi class; Rabbi Meyer’s Thursday class on “The Ways of G-d: Derech Hashem;” Rabbi Menachem Lehrfield’s Spirals in Time; Sarah Lehrfield’s Mamas in Jamas (which was already Zoom-based!); NCSY youth offerings including parent-teen sessions led by Dov Ort and Rabbi Nuszen; and Hebrew school (SITE), running virtually in cooperation with some other cities’ programs.
“We’ve brought international resources to our community,” remarked Aish of the Rockies’ Chief Operating Officer Zev Jacobs, “and in turn are offering our resources to the world.”
Contact Sari Steinberg