The Story of a Silent Jew named Ernest 

Were you a Released Time volunteer? We’ve got just the story for you! The story of Ernest, a middle-aged fellow, who some would call a “silent Jew”.

His name is Ernest. He’s a middle-aged fellow. Some would call him a “silent Jew”.

He brings his children to Hebrew School every week, silently. He watches the shul’s holiday programs, silently. He regularly observes as the morning minyan takes place, silently. 

But he never joins. 

Ernest is a quiet man. He politely declines the appeal to lay Tefillin when asked. No one knows how he reached Chabad or what his Jewish connection is. It is obvious that he prioritizes a Jewish education for his children; the shliach always assumed it must be due to his wife as he seems very standoffish about religion.

One day, he approaches the Rabbi. 

“I’d like to put on Tefillin,” he blurts out. Without asking questions, the Rabbi eagerly agrees to the unexpected request, and the two stand silently while he wraps Tefillin on Ernest’s left arm. 

“It’s my second time,” he suddenly speaks again. “I didn’t even have a Bar Mitzvah.”

Ernest’s parents were poor Russian immigrants who had no choice but to send him to public school. They were not able to give him any Jewish education. 

One Wednesday, a young man with a beard was standing outside his Brooklyn Public School. From that moment on, Ernest’s childhood was different. The joy he experienced at Released Time each week gave him a warm feeling for Judaism. He remembered going on trips around the holidays, like  to the matzah bakery before Pesach and having a float in the Lag B’Omer parade. He did not become religious, but the memories from Released Time remained with him for decades. 

Upon marrying his wife, he asked one request of her: that they raise their children Jewish. Both came from completely secular backgrounds, and they had no idea where to begin. In Ernerst’s mind, he pictured the warm smile of the religious young man from his youth, and he knew he wouldn’t stop searching until he found someone just like him. Ernest finally discovered Chabad and immediately knew that it was the right fit for his family. A few years passed, and his commitment to his children’s Jewish education is still unwavering.

Now, both of them are smiling. “I, too, was a Released Time volunteer,” the Rabbi tells Ernest. “And I had no idea just how impactful our one hour on a Wednesday could be.”

Ernest is the story of thousands of children. His short encounter with Released Time was his entire connection to Yiddishkeit. Decades later, he still holds it dear.

If you were the bochur that volunteered in Ernest’s classroom, you probably didn’t realize the impact of your hour spent in the Brooklyn Public School. The weekly visit promised a Jewish future for him and for his entire family. 

In 2024, there are many more stories like Ernest’s waiting to happen. At Released Time, we know that 1 hour can change a life forever. 

Invest in Released Time today! Donate toward our goal of $700.000 for the continuation of Erenst’s story.

Together, we can paint a Jewish future for generations to come.

Click here to donate

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