Over 2,600 men and women from 15 states and two Canadian provinces are participating in the Orthodox Union (OU)’s SPIRIT program during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Stimulating Program Initiative for Retirees that Inspires Thought” (SPIRIT) has played a vital role for those over 60 who have been staying home during the pandemic due to the increased risk they face.

The program was created a few years ago as the OU recognized that as the Baby Boomer generation retires from their professional responsibilities, they are looking for spiritual, educational and intellectual stimulation. Since those over 60 are at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from the COVID-19 virus, the demand for additional programming increased rapidly as did interest from the community in recent months. Since March 2020, there have been more that 35 virtual programs geared toward physical movement, mental health, Jewish learning, learning how to use social media, cybersecurity, the history of Kashrus in the United States and more.

Seeing the tremendous impact and benefits of the SPIRIT program, 38 synagogues throughout the United States and Canada partnered with the Orthodox Union to grow the program during the pandemic. They include: Anshei Chesed Congregation (Boynton Beach, FL), Beth David Synagogue (West Hartford, CT), Bialystoker Synagogue (New York, NY), B’nai Israel-Ohev Zedek (Philadelphia, PA), Congregation Agudath Sholom (Stamford, CT), Congregation Ahavas Sholom (Columbus, OH), Congregation Aitz Chaim (West Palm Beach, FL), Congregation Anshe Sfard (New Orleans, LA), Congregation Beth Hamedrosh (Wynnewood, PA), Congregation Beth Ora (Montreal, Quebec), Congregation Beth Sholom (Providence, RI), Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (New York, NY), Congregation Ohav Zedek (Wilkes-Barre, PA), Congregation Tiferet Israel (Austin, TX), Congregation Torah Ohr (Boca Raton, FL), Congregation Zvi Jacob (Utica, NY), Darchei Noam (Minneapolis, MN), East Denver Orthodox Synagogue (Denver, CO), Fleetwood Synagogue (Fleetwood, NY), Kehillat New Hempstead (New Hempstead, NY), Kehillat Shaarei Torah of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario), Keneseth Beth Israel (Richmond, VA), Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley Synagogue (Baltimore, MD), Suburban Torah (Livingston, NJ), United Orthodox Synagogues (Houston, TX), Young Israel of Bal Harbour (Surfside, FL), Young Israel of Brookline (MA), Young Israel of Deerfield Beach (FL), Young East of Brunswick (NJ), Young Israel of Elkins Park (PA), Young Israel of Hillcrest (NY), Young Israel of Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale (FL), Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills (NY), Young Israel of New Hyde Park (NY), Young Israel of Queens Valley (NY), Young Israel of Southfield (MI), Young Israel of Stamford (CT) and the Young Israel of West Hartford (CT).

“COVID-19 has been very difficult for our entire community, especially retirees who are more confined to their homes than others. At the same time, they want to engage in intellectually stimulating programming, and the OU sought to fill that gap by bringing the programming to them virtually so that they could participate from the comfort and safety of their own home,” said Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have sought meaningful ways to support and engage all of those in our community. We are pleased that so many retirees from all over the United States and Canada are participating in these programs and that the demand increases each week,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer.

“All of the SPIRIT programs are recorded, distributed and archived so that people can tune in afterwards during a convenient time for them to participate,” said Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, Director of Community Programs and SPIRIT Coordinator.

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Orthodox Union
Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs. For more information, visit https://www.ou.org/.
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