When Pesach rolled around, she planned her return to Scotland. But R’ Klatzko, concerned that she’d lose all she had gained if she returned to her secular environment, invited her to his Monsey home for the holiday. After an inspiring Yom Tov, Gemma returned to Neve. At that point, she had gained so much knowledge that R’ Klatzko offered her a madricha position on the yearly Akiva Israel summer tour he leads for unaffiliated Jews. “And shortly
R’ Klatzko believes that his website is the future of outreach. “With all the outreach organizations out there, we were reaching about 35,000 non-religious Jews worldwide,” he explains, “The problem is there are 12 million Jews that need to be reached so what could we do to increase the numbers?” The answer: kosher social networking. “With social networking, I have a connection to all my friend’s friends, which means that instead of 50 friends I have 500 or even 5,000 friends. My sphere of influence grows, more people hear about us and spread the word.” To prove his point, R’ Klatzko mentions a recent Google alert informing him that the Peace Corps had written an article about the site. In the last year, he continues, NBC News and The Wall Street Journal also wrote articles about Shabbat.com. “What really blows their minds,” R’ Klatzko maintains, “is how inviting the Jewish community is. They have a hard time wrapping their heads around that.”
R’ Klatzko shares a final story. A New York Times writer was raised as a Baptist and recently discovered he was Jewish. Googling, he found Shabbat.com, and invited himself to a family for a Shabbos. After a wonderful weekend he moved on to the Klatzkos for the second Shabbos of his life. “After filling us in on his background, we realized he had no Hebrew name and had never been ‘bar mitzvahed.’” In shul Shabbos morning, the ex-Baptist was called up to the Torah and given the name Moshe. The congregants threw candy at him as is traditional for a bar mitzvah boy, raised him on a chair and danced around him. It was a Shabbos “Moshe” will never forget.
Sometimes potential hosts are wary of signing up because they worry who the strangers coming to their home might be. R’ Klatzko emphasizes that they have a team that googles and checks backgrounds. Additionally, all those who sign up provide references and can be checked out that way as well.
There is also a parsha link on the site. Just another way of spreading Torah, R’ Klatzko says. Shabbat.com also works with Sister to Sister, an organization for divorcees and widows. They can go on the site and locate their favorite host. “This chesed is what Shabbat.com is all about,” R’ Klatzko asserts, “helping G-d’s children in whatever way they need.” A widow’s house burnt down. R’ Klatzko did a proximity search for all those who live within 2 miles and posted a request for help. Shabbat.com is also there for baalei teshuva returning from Israel who often don’t have religious support at home and are in danger of sliding back. With Shabbat.com, they can immediately hook up with a caring host.
These are some of the special services Shabbat.com provides. Running this extensive social network, however, is expensive. The cost is $16,000 a month and there are no membership fees or charges. R’ Klatzko invites anyone interested in dedicating a week or a month in memory of a loved one, or for a refuah sheleima, to contact him. The dedication will appear in the homepage for the world to appreciate. “It’s like dedicating Shabbos to the entire globe.”Malkie Schulman
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