One year after merging, two groups that offer diverse programming and resources for Rhode Island’s Jewish community will next month formalize that union, their leaders said.
Project Shoresh, which is 18 years old, and the Providence Community Kollel, which is in its 14th year, joined forces last September in order to streamline their offerings. Rabbi Raphie Schochet, 47, of the Kollel, and Rabbi Naftali Karp, 37, who runs Project Shoresh with his brother, Rabbi Noach Karp, 32, recently spoke to The Jewish Voice about the revamped group and their expectations for it.
Naftali Karp said he expects the new group’s name and logo to be revealed in September, to coincide with the anniversary of the merger. He said the announcement will also formally establish the group’s new administrative structure, which he said calls for Schochet to be chief educator, while he becomes the CEO and Noach Karp becomes chief operating officer.
“We’re here to help make Judaism feel relevant in a changing world,” Naftali Karp said of the merged group’s overriding purpose.
In a joint email interview, he and Schochet shed some light on what motivated the merger.
“We were finding that although there are many more Jews than we could ever actually hope to service in the region, there are core groups who have a decidedly greater interest. As we would market our programs, we were finding that people were getting caught in the overlap [of the two groups] and being too highly inundated with offers to join programs, and the net result was demonstrating a place for collaboration,” they said.
In addition, the pair said of the decision to merge: “We are good friends and felt that by sharing our talents and expertise, we could complement one another, decrease the drag on our volunteer base and act as foils to one another in making more personal handcrafted Jewish experiences for more individuals.” Another plus for the merger, they added, was decreasing their overhead, streamlining communication and being able to accomplish more “by working as a team rather than trying to step around one another.”
The merger has been a work in progress over the last year, and both said they are pleased with how well the combined organization is doing.
“It’s been beautiful. It’s been amazing how the major players involved have worked together,” Karp said. “It’s really been incredible. We’ve all come together, being open to what’s best for the community.”
In their joint interview, both Karp and Schochet stressed that what hasn’t changed, and won’t change, is the group’s dedication to the community, especially in areas of outreach.
Karp, for example, said that although the merged group has a learning center, formally called the Center for Jewish Studies, at 450 Elmgrove Ave., in Providence, it maintains a presence across greater Rhode Island. That includes an office at Congregation Beth Sholom, in Providence, and a willingness to conduct programs wherever they’re needed or wanted: in homes, parks, synagogues, businesses, the Jewish Alliance’s Dwares Community Center, at 401 Elmgrove Ave., in Providence, and the Brown University Hillel Center in Providence, for example.
“Part of our mission is to run our programs where people are,” Karp said, and that practice will continue uninterrupted.
In addition, “Part of our mission is to strengthen Jewish unity,” Karp and Schochet said. “It is difficult to have unity if we don’t connect. There are so many things we as Jews have in common, and [we] need to celebrate those differences we may have.”
LARRY KESSLER is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.