Inside the OU

Lunch and Dinner: Heart to Heart Expands

How do you spread the beauty of Shabbat and Judaism? By sharing a Shabbat meal.

That’s the brilliance behind Heart to Heart, a grassroots college Shabbat program founded by Hart Levine and run through the Orthodox Union’s NextGen Division. Levine began Heart to Heart seven years ago when he realized there was a void for Jewish college students who wanted to share Shabbat meals with their non-observant college classmates.

“Person-to-person connections are really the core approach of Heart to Heart,” emphasizes Levine. “Our goal is to connect Jews to Judaism, and to the Jewish community, by creating meaningful experiences with friends in a more organic campus setting–we work with students to connect with their peers, working from the inside out.”

Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, director of the NextGen Division, explains that Heart to Heart’s formula for success is simple: “It’s a movement of active Jewish students sharing the beauty of Judaism with Jewishly nonactive students who are living in their dorms and attending the same classes–it’s friends sharing what they love with their friends.”

Levine was recently recognized for his work by New York’s Jewish Week who named him one of the “36 under 36” Jewish leaders of today. However, Levine is not one to rest on his laurels. Since Birthright NEXT–the follow-up program for Birthright participants–closed, Heart to Heart is looking to bring the joys of Shabbat to more people than before.

Expanding on its popular Shabbat meal program, Heart to Heart will be working with Birthright alumni from the OU’s Taglit-Birthright Israel Free Spirit trips and Israel Outdoor trips to host Shabbat dinners with their peers on select campuses. This model will allow Birthright alumni to become Jewish leaders by developing their own Jewish communities on their college campuses. Over time, Heart to Heart will ensure that Birthright is only the first step in a lifelong journey toward Jewish engagement.

This article was featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Jewish Action.