It all began in December 1975, when Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, then the Educational Director at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan, launched the now acclaimed “Beginners Service.” As the Beginners Service grew in popularity, Rabbi Buchwald introduced several other innovative educational programs to draw unaffiliated Jews to the synagogue. His most popular programs were Turn Friday Night Into Shabbat, the Hebrew Reading Crash Course and what eventually became known as the Crash Course in Basic Judaism, which sought to make the synagogue experience and Jewish life more welcoming to the unaffiliated.
In the Fall of 1987, Rabbi Buchwald decided to replicate his outreach experiences and programs in synagogues across North America. From his own experiences, Rabbi Buchwald understood how challenging it was for synagogues to attract new members and continue to inspire their congregations. Together with Beryl Levenson, he founded the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) to not only provide synagogues with basic course materials, but to also help them attract new members.
NJOP was a new adventure, an organization that was created to help synagogues and Jewish organizations of all denominations inspire Jews from every walk of life in the hope of revitalizing North American Jewry. In the decade that followed, NJOP transformed both the Hebrew Reading Crash Course and Turn Friday Night Into Shabbat into the highly successful continental campaigns known as Read Hebrew America and Canada and Shabbat Across America and Canada, respectively. Numerous additional programs have been added to NJOP’s roster, and NJOP’s programs have now been offered to almost 1.4 million North American Jews and to hundreds of thousands of Jews in 39 additional countries.
In 2008, NJOP entered the world of social media with the creation of its Jewish Treats/JewishTweets brand. Not only was NJOP one of the first major Jewish organizations to have a Twitter presence, but Jewish Treats has continued to gain in popularity through all of its online venues.
Tonight, NJOP celebrates its 25th anniversary at its Annual Dinner in New York. Congratulations NJOP!