Chabad Young Professional Shluchim tap community members as ‘Ambassadors of Freedom’ charged with sharing the gift of Matzah with their family, coworkers, and peers.
Ethan Stein is a young professional living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Two years ago, during the thick of the pandemic, his local Shliach Rabbi Yaya Wilhelm asked for his help delivering Matzah to the community. Ethan happily agreed and has continued ever since, his Matzah route growing every year, bringing Matzah wherever he goes in the weeks leading up to Pesach. He enjoys the success and satisfaction he sees from his unique mission.
“After discovering he was Jewish, I handed my bank teller a Matzah. His whole face lit up!” related Stein. “My waitress at a local Kosher restaurant was thrilled when I offered her a Matzah. I even mustered up the courage to offer a Matzah to the CEO of the publicly-traded company where I work. He sent me an email after the Seder, thanking me for thinking of him. Simple acts of kindness, of care, of genuine Ahavas Yisroel go such a long way. People were so touched and genuinely excited to receive a Matzah.”
Young professionals in cities worldwide have followed Ethan’s lead, sharing Matzah with others as part of the Ambassadors of Freedom program.
Ambassadors of Freedom, now in its third year, has dramatically widened the reach and impact of Shluchim, all while fostering remarkable growth in the community of Jewish young professionals. The initiative, mirroring a similar Chanuka Mitzvah Ambassador program, is centered around Mivtza Matzah. CYP shluchim nominate “CYP Ambassadors” – young professionals from within their community to share a Shmura Matzah with those who may otherwise not have.
An upscale pre-Passover social event was created by the CYP team at Merkos 302 as a “launch party” for Shluchim to introduce the ambassador program in their respective communities. The Shluchim were provided with complete resources and a step-by-step guide as coupled with beautifully designed customizable marketing material to publicize the event on social media. Shopping lists and a setup walkthrough were prepared, helping the Shluchim put forth a high-quality event with minimal effort.
As the event’s centerpiece, a large display of CYP branded Matzah boxes were attractively stacked to draw the crowd’s interest. The Shluchim presented the ambassador concept while explaining that participants had been carefully selected, including only those willing and capable of taking on an ambassador role in the community.
Each participant left with a Matzah for themselves and at least one additional Matzah to share with a Jew they would encounter.
“When first introducing Ambassadors of Freedom at the event, we met much hesitance. People were reluctant to take a Matzah, claiming they rarely or never encounter any other Jewish people,” explained Rabbi Mendel Danow, a Shliach to Pensacola, Florida, and a recently opened branch of CYP. “Much of our efforts are focused on boosting the Jewish identity within each member of our community. The ambassador program proved to be an unbelievable opportunity. My wife and I encouraged the crowd and presented a challenge: Pesach is two weeks away. Try to be more conscious and aware of your Jewish identity for these two weeks. Introduce yourself as such, and be on the lookout for other Jewish people in your surrounding. The response we received was tremendous!
Equipped with an extra dose of Jewish identity, encounters between fellow Jews started to pop up everywhere. Whether in line at the supermarket, while working out at the local gym, or with co-workers at the office, each run-in resulted in Matzah hand-off.
As word spread, the Matzah trail grew. Many ambassadors received follow-up requests. Recipients shared their experiences with family and friends, prompting them to reach out for a Matzah of their own.
“I was getting so many requests from so many people that I had to go back to the local Chabad to pick up some more Matzos. Eventually, my mother even texted me some leads of people that would appreciate a Matzah. So many people were involved in these Mitzvos. The impact of giving is felt even more by the giver than the recipient. I am so fortunate to be a Mitzvah Ambassador,” Stein reflected.
“Shluchim have begun empowering regular businessmen to make Jewish connections with the people they encounter daily. The Rebbe’s vision of ‘Shliach Oseh Shliach’ has expanded to include people of all backgrounds and professions. It is incredible to see young adults take an active leadership role in the Jewish community and become ambassadors of Yiddishkeit amongst their peers,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302.
The ambassador project is the ultimate embodiment of the greater mission of the international network, explains Rabbi Beryl Frankel, Director of Chabad Young Professionals International, “CYP Shluchim have been stoking the Jewish flame in young adults, cultivating the next generation of leaders in the Jewish communities. The Mitzvah Ambassador initiative has elevated this goal to a whole new level, encouraging young Jews to take on an active leadership role amongst their family, workplace, and beyond.