Project Inspire Arizona

A group of men and women from Phoenix and Scottsdale participate in a Project Inspire Arizona program.

Last year’s Great Arizona Challah Bake, part of Shabbat Project Arizona, spawned a new local chapter of the national group Project Inspire, designed to connect Jews with each other and their heritage.

The leader of the new Project Inspire chapter is Robin Meyerson, who also has been running Shabbat Project Arizona for the last four years as a volunteer. She wanted to work with a program that met throughout the year to accompany her work with the Shabbat advocacy group.

“I am excited about what we hope to accomplish with Project Inspire Arizona,” Meyerson said, adding that members want to create a dedicated group of volunteer men and women who will grow with their fellow Jews through learning, social programs and trips to Israel.

The national Project Inspire was created in 2006 and has chapters across North America. The organization was founded by Aish International, an Orthodox Jewish outreach movement with strategic projects around the globe.

“We can access the multitude of resources from Aish International, one of the largest Jewish organizations in the world, and set up learning opportunities for anyone of any age or background in Arizona,” Meyerson said. “We identify, recruit and train volunteer men and women who want to build a grassroots movement of mutual inspiration. We are currently building a solid group of men and women volunteers who are inspired by each other to learn one-on-one and then come together for business and social programs.”

Meyerson added that the one-on-one sessions are conducted in person, over the phone and even via Skype. These sessions allow learners of various backgrounds to get in touch with Judaism and understand their cultural backgrounds.

One of these learners is Ann Cone-Sevi, who volunteered with Meyerson at the Great Arizona Challah Bake last year.

Cone-Sevi is currently studying the laws of lashon hara, also known as the laws of proper speech. Her specific interest is in gossip, as she thinks that it’s important to be truthful and positive.

She and her partner are also looking at the weekly Torah portion and what they can learn from that.

“I came from a background that is not observant,” Cone-Sevi said. “So, probably for the last 20 to 30 years I’ve been trying to learn and grow and observe. When Robin found someone I can learn with, it was just a great opportunity for me.”

Project Inspire Arizona also offers other events, programs and opportunities for fellow Jews to meet, such as larger study sessions, dinners and large-scale meetups.

One of the group’s first partnerships is with myzuzah.org, which donates mezuzahs to those who can’t afford one.

Project Inspire Arizona also is accepting applications from men, women and couples who would like to go on trips to Israel.

Meyerson described the trip as “an unparalleled seven-day spiritual journey with a group of growth-oriented, accomplished Jewish people of all levels of observance.”

One event that’s coming up from Project Inspire Arizona and Shabbat Project Arizona is a men’s event on Oct. 22. This will feature many different men and rabbis giving JEDx Talks, their version of the popular TED Talks.

Shabbat Project of Arizona’s annual Great Arizona Challah Bake is set for Oct. 25. This year’s challah bake will be hosted at three different locations: Beth El Congregation, Congregation Beth Tefillah and Chabad of the East Valley.

Celebrity chef and founder of Kosher Network International, Jamie Geller, will be cooking live at Congregation Beth Tefillah. Her event will be streamed live on Shabbat Project Arizona’s Facebook page. JN

For information on Project Inspire Arizona, visit projectinspireaz.com. For information on Shabbat Project Arizona, visit shabbatprojectaz.org.

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