‘The Hollywood Rabbi’ dishes on what makes Judaism unique

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PROVIDENCE – Rabbi Bentzion Klatzko, “The Hollywood Rabbi,” was the featured guest speaker at Project Shoresh’s program on Sept. 22 at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center. 

Rabbi Klatzko, the conceptual founder of Shabbat.com and senior director of Olami, spoke on the theme of Judaism being unique.

Klatzko is the national director of College Outreach and promotes Jewish education and continuity throughout North America. In 1999, he became campus rabbi at the University of California Los Angeles. He has since reconnected thousands of young Jewish men and women to their heritage, and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and producers, including cast members from “Friends,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” and “Third Rock From the Sun,” became regulars at his popular monthly class on Jewish thought, earning him the moniker “The Hollywood Rabbi.”

Rabbi Klatzko’s stories, expertly woven together into unexpected and moving lessons, held the Providence audience rapt.

Klatzko said Judaism comes from the root for l’hodot, “to thank.” He said the Jewish people are the “thank you people”: The moment we wake each day, we say the modeh ani, expressing thanks for life,  and we express thanks before and after eating and for every other benefit in our lives.

Rabbi Klatzko said we pray three times each day because that is the very least one would “check in” with someone dear to him or her.  For example, we spend time with a spouse every morning and evening, and call or text at least once during the day.

Many of Klatzko’s illustrations included first-person accounts. He said that when he and his wife are out on a date, his wife expects that his cellphone will be turned off, so his attention is undivided. He likened this to Shabbat, when we spend one day each week totally disconnected from our work, our emails, our devices, allowing us to devote the day to our relationship with God and to spiritual growth.

The program also featured a reception with delicious food and live classical music by Fishel Bresler and Co.  The JCC’s social hall bustled with people of all ages, representing a broad spectrum of the Rhode Island Jewish community.   

Project Shoresh is partnering with the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. for its next event, “Obstacle or Opportunity,” featuring world-class athlete Michael Neuman.

Check the Alliance’s website, www.jewishallianceri.org, for details.

To learn more about Project Shoresh, email nkarp@projectshoresh.com.

RUCHAMA SZENDRO lives in Providence.