Despite Global Unrest, CYP Take Leadership Role This Chanukah

Young professionals around the country have led a remarkable initiative in which they have turned into “Ambassadors of Light” to get as many other Jews to light menorah.

With recent world events rocking the global Jewish community, every Jew of every stripe has felt the need to do something: to get more involved, to act upon their inner identity as a member of the Jewish people who have been so brutally battered.

It is within these circumstances that young professionals around the country have led a remarkable initiative in which they have turned into “Ambassadors of Light” to those around them, committing not only to increase their own Jewish observance but also galvanizing others to, in turn, inspire others to do the same.

Max Sussman of Pittsburgh, PA, is one such ambassador. When he heard that a menorah campaign had kicked off and it was his sacred task to get as many people as possible to get their friends to light a menorah, he was off and running. 

“This mitzvah mission thing is pretty great,” Sussman messaged Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld of Chabad Young Professionals of Pittsburgh, PA. “When I asked people if they could think of another Jew who might need one, some asked if they could take two, three, or even five more–including even some who I didn’t think would be up for helping pass out menorahs. Driving to Bethel Park at 8 pm isn’t so fun, but knowing I was on a mission to help another Jew do a mitzvah really was energizing and exciting!!”

This isn’t the only feedback Rosenfeld has received. “This is the first time we’re bringing this program to Pittsburgh, and the results have been incredible,” he said.

Of course, Sussman isn’t alone in his ambassadorship. As part of a more significant, global effort of “Ambassadors of Light” organized by Chabad Young Professionals International at Merkos 302, already hundreds of hand-picked lead ambassadors have joined from various communities.

So, with the recent tidal wave of Jewish pride and unity it has sparked, these ambassadors have reached a feverish level of activity. First, an impromptu campaign was organized to get people to commit to taking on another mitzvah for soldiers in Israel. People responded enthusiastically to the initiative, posting pictures of themselves doing the mitzvah, which they fulfilled. The photos along with each leader’s long-term commitment, will be printed out and personally delivered to soldiers on the front lines during the upcoming CYP solidarity mission to Israel. 

And then, with Chanukah around the corner, the menorah campaign was launched with outstanding results. Lead ambassadors huddled on a Zoom call a few weeks before the holiday to strategize and inspire each other to reach their goals. 

On the Zoom, Rabbi Asher Federman from Chabad of the Virgin Islands related a remarkable personal story about the power of just one fleeting menorah encounter on a cruise ship that ultimately reconnected generations of Jews back to their heritage across the world. Rabbi Mordechai Rodal from Chabad of Norwood, South Africa, shared another remarkable story about how a single menorah he once distributed literally saved someone’s life, preventing a suicide no less.

Adding to the inspiration, Oria Bokobza, a survivor of the October 7th massacre, got on the call, sharing her story of how keeping Shabbat helped save her life.

Danah Kirsh, an ambassador from Scottsdale, Arizona, reported how she brought some extra menorahs with her to a volunteering task she does for a local JCC Israel-related effort. There, she successfully secured more ambassadors. “I gave out quite a few menorahs, including one to a woman whose family member just had a baby and is unable to get out and get her own,” she reported on the Ambassadors of Light WhatsApp group.

The idea of asking community members to help in outreach efforts and other such activities is not new. For quite some time now, Chabad rabbis have seen much success in motivating lay members to participate in Jewish outreach, such as giving menorahs on Chanukah to those who don’t have their own, the same for Shabbat candles, encouraging others to put on tefillin, and the like.

But this Ambassador program takes things to a whole new level. With the vision of multiple Chabad Rabbis and founding partner Mr. Yudi Hercenberg, in this iteration, lead ambassadors in each city go out and find other ambassadors, creating concentric circles of influence that bring the light of Judaism to so many more people.

In many ways, this is the ultimate vision for what all those hard-working Chabad Rabbis and Rebbetzins are trying to do. They often joke that they’re in arguably the only industry in the world whose practitioners would be happy if they didn’t have any work. Well, when a lead ambassador gets on a Zoom call and hits the ground running all on their own, inspiring others to canvas the neighborhood and capitalize on their social network to spread Judaism, it’s one step closer to that vision. 

“We can all appreciate the ready symbolism of the Chanukah candles lit in the darkness of the night,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch. “Only during the night can we see the impact of the light. Our current times very much reflect this reality: it’s quite dark outside, and specifically, now, the spark that is the Jewish soul is being fanned into a roaring flame. These ambassadors are at the forefront of that effort, taking leadership roles and steering our collective light to shine deep into the darkness.”

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