Oorahthon’s Inspiring Moments

Oorah’s auction is always one of the most anticipated Oorah events of the year, with thousands of people taking part from all over the world. The Oorahthon, which takes place the night of the auction, is the highlight of the entire auction, as not only are the winners announced, but there is fun, entertaining and exciting programming, all lasting until the early hours of the morning. This programming gives a special peek into Oorah, as viewers are able to meet the dedicated staff, volunteers, and hear inspiring stories of those a part of the Oorah family. What viewers would not hear, are the fascinating stories of the some of the auction winners, which we only learn about after the auction is over. Here, we have detailed a few of the stories, so you can become just as inspired as we were!

  • The winner of the $4000 discover card had actually bought the ticket for someone else. While anyone who wins such a prize would be ecstatic, this winner was over the moon, and not because she would be using the money herself, but because she would be giving it away to her friend! Her friend, who has four children and is expecting her fifth, is having a very difficult time caring for her family. Unfortunately, her husband has been wrongly accused of a crime and is sitting in jail, unable to be there and provide for his family. The winner of the prize entered the auction, having in mind that if she won, she would give the life changing prize to her friend. And now, thanks to Hashem’s intervention, she is able to!
  • The “Go for The Gold” winner, has won an ounce of gold per family member. With 14 children, this lucky family has won 16 ounces of gold! Not only that, but the winner informed us that the family has recently took upon themselves to bench with sincere kavanah. She is convinced that they won this amazing prize in that zechus!
  • The “Mega Bucks” winner has won 100 times his donation. With every ticket being $5, this means that just by buying one ticket, he could have won $500! Wanting to donate generously regardless if he won or not, he gave $1000, knowing he was giving money to a great cause. Unbelievable, this lucky man won the prize, and now is the proud winner of $50,000!! You never know where your tzedakah will lead you!
  • During the Oorahthon, our lines momentarily went down due an electrical current zapping our equipment. With thousands of viewers and callers depending on us, we knew we had to get the equipment up and running right away. Needing a specific piece of phone equipment to bring our studio guests back on air, everyone was frantically in search of the part needed. Unbelievably, one person who “happened” to be at Oorah, watching the Oorahthon, had the replacement part in the car! He told us that he had the part available only because a friend had requested to borrow it a few days later. Because he didn’t want to forget to give it to his friend, he had placed it in his car days early. Thanks to his quick thinking and Hashem’s plans, we were able to get the Oorahton hotline up and running in no time!

The Power of a 7th Grade Class

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ll know about Yeshiva Mevakshei Hashem’s write-a-thon. The seventh grade class campaigned to raise money for Oorah through writing and fundraising to their friends and relatives.

We’ve recently received an email following up on the campaign. This group of seventh graders raised an outstanding amount of…. $2,290.10! The students will be dedicating an item  for one of Oorah’s programs.

They’ve also created an exhibit to feature the various Oorah programs. We love TheZone 🙂

Quite an impressive feat!

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From Our Mailbox

From Fiveish fan mail to event feedback, Oorah often receives interesting letters in the mail.  But we’ve never received a manilla envelope like the one we did last week.

The envelope was stuffed with handwritten notes composed by the seventh grade students of Yeshivas Mevakshai Hashem. These students are in the midst of a Write-a-thon, a project where students choose an organization and fund-raise for them. The seventh grade class choose Oorah as their favorite organization!

Here are just a few of the beautiful letters we received:

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My Rosh Hashana Inspiration

Just a few days ago, we were all sitting in shul, experiencing a hopefully inspiring davening on Rosh Hashana. I was lucky enough to spend an amazing Yom Tov at TheZone. The days were spent davening in TheZone’s gorgeous shul, The Great Synagogue, as it’s called. It’s a beautiful room, with high ceilings and a stunning aron kodesh featuring animals of pirkei avos and stained glass windows.

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But more beautiful than the décor were the people who filled the shul. The room was crammed with people from all over, with diverse backgrounds, some more affiliated, and some less so. The tefillos were slow, a real authentic davening. The chazzan sang throughout, with enthusiastic humming and singing from the crowds.

I sat next to a woman, Mrs. W. This was her first time in TheZone, and she had never sat through the long Rosh Hashana davening. Until now, that is. Though she didn’t understand what the chazzan was saying, she diligently followed along, turning the pages as we progressed in the machzor, despite the fact that she didn’t yet learn how to read Hebrew. Even those who are familiar with the davening find the tefillos long on Rosh Hashana; it’s even more a challenge for those who have never experienced it before. That’s what made my experience even more inspiring. She sat through the entire tefilla through the tekiyos of mussaf!

More than what I gained from the tefillos I davened was what I learned from Oorah’s guests. There’s just one thing I wish Oorah would do differently- that the Rosh Hashana inspiration would continue with a Yom Kippur event at TheZone!

An Oorah Tuition Story

Where your desk is located in the office can make a difference -especially in Oorah where there’s so many different departments. I’m lucky enough to sit way back, next to Mrs. Raizel Hoffman. You see, Mrs. Hoffman is in the tuition assistance department. She takes care of the incoming tuition assistance applications and speaks with families and schools to negotiate the assistance. This time of year, the tuition department is super-busy. The phone rings constantly as dozens of parents call each day. There are lots of things that have to be coordinated with the start of a new school year.

It’s nice that I get to hear what a difference Oorah’s tuition assistance makes in the lives of families who would otherwise sent their kids to public school. They’re always so appreciative of the help. But what happened 3 days ago shows how much Oorah cares.

Mrs. Hoffman was speaking to a mother, let’s call her Mrs. A. Mrs. A really wanted to switch her son, Jason*, into another Jewish school, but unfortunately couldn’t afford the high tuition expense and he ended up in public school. The mother spoke to Oorah, who is assisting with the tuition. But Mrs. A, with an unwell child at home, couldn’t afford the remaining balance. She was really upset that she is forced to send Jason to public school.

Mrs. Hoffman told me what happened next. “I never contact the schools. They partner with us but I never ask them for favors! But this time I did.” She emailed the school that the child applied to, and asked them to reduce the balance even more.

She finally heard back from the school that they lowered the tuition to a manageable number and called the mother excited.

“That was you”, was Mrs. A’s shocked response.

“It was as if I got my own child into school”, said an emotional Mrs. Hoffman.

Jason won’t have to go to public school this year, all because someone when beyond the call of duty.

A Vow Twice Kept

A Vow Twice KeptOur senior account specialist was hard at work calling sponsors past to see if they’d be willing to help sponsor Oorah’s upcoming 2016 auction. She reached one fellow, made her request, and received an unexpected response: He’d be happy to help sponsor this coming Oorah auction, but not until he keeps the neder he made to someone in the Oorah office, this past June.

Now, in case you don’t know, a neder is a vow. And it’s serious stuff. If you make a neder, there’s no getting out of it.

That’s why, most of the time, when people make promises, they end the promise with the words: bli neder, to specify that they’re not making a vow. They do that because you never know what’s going to happen in the future and who knows—maybe something will come up to keep you from keeping that vow. It’s better to be on the safe side and say that your promise is not to be understood as an actual neder.

But this neder, the one this anonymous Oorah sponsor made, was an important one. His father, you see, had been in Auschwitz. Not only was he in Auschwitz, but he was there from the very beginning of the Holocaust.

Arbeit Macht Frei

It is an absolute miracle that any Jew survived the Hell that was Auschwitz, with its starvation diet, rampant disease, hard labor, and torture. But to think that someone survived all that for years on end, is a miracle beyond all miracles.

After Liberation, this man’s father found he was the only person in his family to have survived the war. Moreover, he discovered, the entire Jewish population of the town he came from in Poland, had been completely wiped out. Eviscerated.

He was the sole survivor of his family and of his town. And he was a miracle. As the sole representative of his line and of his town, he remained absolutely and completely frum. Hitler, may his name and memory be erased (yemach shmo) would not have the victory of robbing this Jew of his faith. He had survived for a reason and would not stain the name of his family or the town he came from by leaving his faith by the wayside.

He stayed frum and he was lucky enough to have a son. This son, too, was a faithful Yid, a frum Jew all his life, like his father, and the only frum male to represent his line. This was the sponsor who made the neder, the sponsor our senior account specialist had phoned.  He’d made a neder to Oorah that if any grandsons are born to him, he will give Oorah money to pay for a bris (circumcision) ceremony for an Oorah family.

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And yes! The man was blessed with a grandson last June. Thrilled with this blessing, this continuation of his line, a line of faithful Yidden, they and their faith surviving even through the brimstone of the Holocaust, he called Oorah and arranged to pay for one bris for one Oorah family.

Just as he’d promised.

He’d kept the neder.

Or so he’d thought.

But as it turns out, he wasn’t done yet. Something happened. He received another gift from Hashem, the gift of a second grandson, against all odds. Another miracle.

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As such, the man came to the conclusion that he had not yet fulfilled his neder! He’d vowed to pay for the bris of an Oorah family if only he’d have a grandson and you see, it had happened AGAIN, when he’d thought it never would, the first time around.

How happy he was to continue his line, to have more frum males in the family, and so he asked if he might pay for another bris for another Oorah family.

The only caveat? That Oorah makes sure the Oorah representative he spoke to last June is informed that the neder has been kept. “Now that we’ve taken care of that,” he told the senior account specialist, “We can talk about me sponsoring Oorah’s 2016 auction.”

That is what he said, at any rate, and we, those of us at Oorah, would tend to believe him.

Being that he is a man who keeps his word.