PROVIDENCE – Four new couples have joined Project Shoresh as the organization looks to grow its programming and reach.
Shoresh, Hebrew for “root,” or “source,” was founded in 2001 by Rabbi Naftali Karp, who was joined a few years later by his brother, Rabbi Noach Karp. Together, they help members of the Rhode Island Jewish community connect to their Judaism, in whatever way is best for each individual, to strengthen Jewish unity and identity.
“Our number-one mission is to share the beauty of Judaism,” Rabbi Naftali Karp said in a recent interview. “The major way we do that is through experiences. We combine experience with education. And we listen to what people want and then we try to offer that.”
He continued, “During COVID, we saw an uptick in programs and interest in what we do. People who never came to our programs and our events were coming, and we were meeting way more people than we could provide services for. We decided that we should be hiring new talent and younger talent, and maybe people who are still studying.”
The new hires are Rabbi Chaim Yehuda and Guta Shapps, of Queens, New York; Rabbi Tzvi and Miri Katz, of Lakewood, New Jersey; Rabbi Moshe and Freda Sanders, of Jerusalem; and Rabbi Eli and Esti Kasirer, of Lakewood.
In additional to their work for Project Shoresh, they study at the New England Rabbinical College, teach at Providence Hebrew Day School, and continue other work remotely.
In a recent interview, the new arrivals, who have made a two-year commitment to Project Shoresh, said the Providence community has been welcoming and friendly.
“We are all working together. We make a small community of our own! And we are trying to capitalize on our own talents,” said Rabbi Tzvi Katz.
“I’m teaching Hebrew 101 with people who never learned Hebrew,” he said, noting that both he and his wife have training in teaching Hebrew to people with disabilities.
Rabbi Noach Karp said that knowing how to read Hebrew and recognizing what’s in the prayer book brings people a lot of comfort.
The new staff will allow Shoresh to offer more programming, as well as enhance its existing programming. For example, Shabbat meals have always been offered by both rabbis and their families, but now, with more hosts, they can be smaller and more intimate.
There is now also more opportunity for one-on-one study and more programming for women.
Hiring the new staff was made possible by Rabbi Naftali Karp’s fundraising efforts. He was a full-time fundraiser before he became a full-time rabbi.
“We started out thinking we would hire one new couple,” he said, but the successful fundraising allowed them to hire more.
“There were too many miracles to say that God was not in the driver’s seat,” he said.
FRAN OSTENDORF (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island. For more information on Project Shoresh, go to projectshoresh.com