Inspiration and helplessness at Olami summit in Sao Paulo, The election surprise and the Shabbos Project in 1,000 cities around the world.

It has been quite a week and a half. So this post is longer than usual.

I flew out of Chicago the day after the Cubs won the World Series to attend the Olami International Student Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, joining 1,000 students from 27 countries, and outreach Rabbis from 200 organizations.  (see I was there for four days (Friday through Monday).

It was my first time ever in South America and an opportunity to see a whole new culture. (It kind of made up for a high school rugby tour to Argentina back in 1981 that was cancelled because of sports boycotts against the apartheid government.) It was also an opportunity to be inspired.

Friday afternoon was the opening ceremony and immediately you could feel the energy of 1,000 students together. The theme of the summit was ‘End the Apathy.’ Mr. Eli Horn a major outreach supporter from Sao Paulo (and hence the reason the summit was held in Sao Paulo) addressed the students and told them that his only concern is the survival of the Jewish people and the fight against intermarriage and assimilation. Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau also spoke about how so many Jews have been lost since the end of the war. But it was the students who inspired us all the most – not only through their talking, celebrating Shabbat, dancing and singing together but more importantly through their ideas for engaging students in innovative new ways, shared in presentations over the course of the summit in a competition for a $50,000 grand prize. In the end, Mr. Horn and Mr. Wolfson (another major outreach supporter) committed to help fund every worthwhile project.


At the opening ceremony, a thousand students sang together.


Check out the End the Apathy video at and see the script at the end of this post.

I stayed one more day in Sao Paulo after the summit so I could experience a little of life in the city. I was hosted by parents of a Brazilian friend I’d met in Chicago, Alberto Attar. The Attars live in the neighborhood of Higienópolis, where most of the Sephardi Jews live. Most of the Jews live in apartment buildings within walking distance of a number of shuls. I went to a few of the shuls, ate at a couple of the kosher restaurants, went shopping with the Attars and walked through a local park.

What struck me about Sao Paulo, besides its sheer size (population of metro Sao Paulo is 21 million people) and the widespread poverty and graffiti I saw, was the fact that so many people I spoke to spoke absolutely no English. They couldn’t even say ‘no English.’ Of course, except for a few words I learned (bon jia, obrigado) I spoke no Portuguese. So in the taxi cabs and at the pharmacy and grocery stopped, I simply could not communicate with anyone. I felt helpless. And then when I went to shul for maariv, I felt like I was back in West Rogers Park. The same siddur, the same prayers. It was very comforting.



At the Monte Sinai congregation Torah reading Monday morning


Donald Trump shocked the world. Those who supported him are celebrating. For so many others who did not, I’m sure it is a very difficult time for them, especially young people (including many of our students). Many are fearful for the future of this country.

We all have to daven that Hashem gives Trump the wisdom to lead this country well. And we also have to remember that it is really Hashem who is the real King.

By the way, you might find some comfort listening to Rabbi Tatz at

At the same time, the Torah teaches us to be loving and respectful of all individuals no matter what their background, race or creed is, and our job as individuals is to make sure that we achieve that goal. The only way to combat hate is to love and stand together as a nation of brothers and sisters and support each other.

And what better way to do that than to celebrate Shabbat together. Shabbat is a time for peace, a time to focus on our true essence, a time to draw nearer to each other and to G-d. It is a gift – and no more so than this week.

JET is having a shabbaton in Peterson Park, joining 1,000 cities around the world.

I encourage you to listen to a message from South African Chief Rabbi, and founder of the Shabbat Project phenomenon, Rabbi Warren Goldstein at

The clocks fell back last week. Shabbos is coming in an hour earlier. I can’t wait.

Good Shabbos everyone.






The threats and challenges to the Jewish people have not ended.
The most brutal and difficult war of the Jewish world is facing us today. One of the enemies to the Jewish people has crept up on us slowly over time. It is attacking every generation, across every continent….

Men and women, young and old.
Our synagogues.
Our schools.
Our families and our communities.

Our enemy is apathy.

Who cares what I eat?
Does it matter if I get in the car on Saturday?
What do these words in the prayer book even mean?
What do these laws mean to me?
Why are these customs relevant to my family?
Why Judaism?
Why the Jewish people?

Our lack of caring about our Judaism is our silent enemy. It eats away at our families and communities…

One by one.

In 1940 we were 18 million Jews.
In 1945 we were down to 12 million.
In 1960 we went up to 18 million Jews
BUT in 2016 they say that we are less than 13 million Jews.

Where are the children of the 18 million Jews?

If we don’t combat our apathy, our Jewish future looks bleak.

I in [name of organization] am ending the apathy in [name of city].
Together, we are committed to ending the apathy in the world. We are a global movement of students, educators and community leaders who are committed to ending the apathy by inspiring Jewish greatness …worldwide.

THAT is Olami.

Olami means MY world. Because this IS my world.

A world that I care about.

It’s me recognizing my greatness through Judaism and inspiring others to recognize theirs.




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