Since its establishment in 1987, a primary focus of NJOP has been to establish explanatory or "Beginners" services throughout the country and the world. There are now probably more than 100 Beginners Services in the U.S. that are conducted on a regular basis throughout the year. Over the High Holidays, several hundred explanatory services are held on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, across North America.
One of the most successful Beginners Services, established with the help of NJOP, is the Beginners Service at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (KJ) on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Since September 1991 it has been led brilliantly on Shabbat by NJOP Board Member, George Rohr.
On the High Holidays, more than 500 people attend the KJ Beginners Service, making it the largest High Holiday Beginners Service in the world.
Over the years, many thousands of participants have attended the KJ Beginners and Intermediate programs, including more-than-a-few celebrities.
Recently, the Minister of Economy of Israel and leader of the Bayit Yehudi political party, Naftali Bennett, visited the United States. His message, wherever he spoke, was about making religion more accessible to the Jews of Israel and around the world. In speeches and interviews, he publicly noted, that several years ago, for business reasons, he lived in the U.S. with his wife, who was, at the time, not religiously observant, and attended the KJ Beginners Service. It was through the Beginners Service that he began to develop an appreciation of what Judaism meant to him personally. For his wife, it was the beginning of a more traditional and religious lifestyle.
George Rohr recently wrote to Rabbi Buchwald about Mr. Bennett's visit:
One of your spiritual grandchildren (alumnus, with his wife, of the KJ Beginners Service--they attended for about four years when he was building his high-tech company here [in the U.S.]), Minister Naftali Bennett spoke at KJ this morning about the situation in Israel and the challenge of Iran, etc. He prefaced his talk with a moving statement about how the warmth and [the] "all Jews are welcome" message that he absorbed at our Beginners Service influenced him personally as well as politically ("I had to come here from Israel to learn that Jews shouldn't be labeled and that we are all one...").
You're a full mechitten (literally, Yiddish for an in-law relative, implying a full partner) in all such outcomes.
While others are wondering if there is any solution to the dismal demographic situation, NJOP is out there effectively reaching tens of thousands of Jews and impacting profoundly on their lives, engaging them in Jewish life and providing them with encouragement and inspiration.