The head of the fish division at OU Kosher grew up learning in Public School. Here are the details of his fascinating story.
Brian Goldberg was an average American boy growing up in the 80s in Brooklyn, NY. He attended PS 177, and at 8 years old wrote a story for a school project in which he wrote that his hobbies were building, craft making and drawing.
His family was not really affiliated with Judaism, to the extent that they did not attend synagogue on Yom Kippur or have a Passover Seder. One day they received a brochure for the Jewish Released Time Program and enrolled young Brian.
Every Wednesday from 1st grade through 6th grade he would go to a Shul down the street from his school where Rabbi Shmuel would teach him about the Jewish holidays, blessings, prayers and stories from the Torah. He remembers learning how to say Shema and wearing Tzitzis for the first time.
When he was 14, Rabbi Shmuel called his home and invited him on a Shabbaton where he experienced the warmth of Shabbos for the first time. Slowly he started learning more, eventually embracing a frum lifestyle.
He now goes by the name Chaim and lives with his wife and children in New York. He got a job with OU Kosher, and raised the ranks to now being responsible for their Kosher fish division.
He credits his transformation to the Released Time Program, and recognizes the pressing need for it today. “The magic of talking to kids when they’re young with the Released Time program is you’re giving the kids an identity. When you’re telling a kid, ‘I’m a Jew and I’m proud and it’s without a doubt ‘cause forever, that’s what I’ll be,’ you’re telling a kid to think about himself as part of Klal Yisroel… You give him the feeling that it’s for you, it belongs to you and you are part of that. That’s something that sits in his head. And when the opportunity comes up later in life, it gets woken up.”
“You don’t become rich by investing in a Fortune 500 company once it’s already a successful venture. The people who get rich are the people who are there at the startup phase.That’s what you’re dealing with, young Jewish Neshamas that are by the startup phase. That can’t be done later on in life, somebody has to go into the public schools and go get them as soon as possible. And this is Released Time,” says Rabbi Chaim Goldberg.
Tragically, Rabbi Shmuel was struck by a car and killed in the early 1990s and did not live to see the transformation he sparked in Chaim’s life. But Chaim is certain that he is smiling down at him and having nachas from his student just as he did on so many Wednesday afternoons.
Rabbi Goldberg’s story is just one of many from the hundreds of thousands of children to attend the Released Time Program over the past 80 years.
Help support the vital work of Released Time by contributing to the “Paint Their Jewish Future Campaign” in which every dollar will be matched until 8pm tonight. It is especially auspicious to contribute to mosdos of the Frierdiker Rebbe on Yud Shvat. Donate now at www.JewishHour.org.