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Scott Shay


by Rhonda Spivak, April 16, 2016



New Yorker Scott Shay who wrote “Getting Our Groove Back: How to Energize American Jewry,” who headlined Winnipeg's Limmud Festival of Jewish Learning is the founder of a new Jewish custom designed to engage Jewish adults in Jewish education ---the Chai Mitvah, a cyclical 18-year bar/bat mitzvah.


Shay, a banker, (he is the Chairman of Signature Bank) who is not a professional educator, enlisted the help of Audrey Lichter, a veteran in Jewish education, to help develop a curriculum and launch the Chai Mitzvah program, which now has "1000 participants", in communities such as communities in Manhattan, Westchester and Long Island in New York, as well as Hartford, Conneticut, "which has only 5000 Jews". Shay hopes Winnipeg will be a community that joins the Chai Mitzvah program, whose participants span the religious spectrum, from unaffiliated to Reform to Orthodox to the unaffiliated. 


The Chai Mitzvah program, which builds community '"encourages adults to take time to reflect on where they are Jewishly, " and is a unique engagement program, is comprised of five steps:

1. Attend monthly group learning with a set curriculum provided by Chai Mitzvah

2. Choose an independent study topic for the year

3. Choose a ritual/spiritual practice to take on for a year

4. Choose a social action activity to commit to for the year.

5. Celebrate the journey


Participants, who are divided into four age cohorts (26-33, 46-52, 64-70 and 80-plus), make an eight-month commitment to complete these steps. As Shay outlined in a session at Limmud, the adoption of a new ritual can vary widely, from lighting the Sabbath candles or reading a Torah portion, or reciting the morning prayers. It depends on the individual to choose a ritual that is meaningful to them.


In the session he led, Shay examined the theme of spiritually preparing ourselves for Passover, and creating new symbols and rituals that help us fully engage in Passover Seders. Ideas such as using props to enable children to act out the plagues, examining the meaning of the plagues (i.e. darkness is not only physical but spiritual darkness), as well

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.