At NLEResources.com, we have published blogposts (see here and here and here) that featured great programming brochures and ideas so that your shul or community kollel could be aware of wonderful new initiatives from around the globe! While Shavuot has come and gone, that doesn’t mean that we are ready to move forward just yet. We collected a tremendous amount of Shavuot resources and programming that will remain available to you all year long here. We encourage you and your organization/shul to peruse the ideas, so that you can see if there’s something new that you’d want to implement for next year.
It’s difficult to get people to learn the entire night of Shavuot. After all, Jews and non-Jews have all heard of Chanukah and Pesach. Even if one hasn’t heard of Purim, you can easily invite someone to pick a great costume and join your celebrations! However, if you are asking people to stay up and learn the entire night of Shavuot, which is not a holiday that is as well-known, your students and congregants may need some motivation.
And so, the new programming idea that we want to focus on for this post is a Learn-A-Thon. Two legendary outreach organizations, NCSY and Aish HaTorah, both for the first time ever, hosted such an event.
How Does it Work?
As opposed to a marathon, where participants are sponsored for running, The NCSY Shavuot Learn-A-Thon gave participants the opportunity to be sponored for learning! NCSYers committed to learning all night on Shavuot, and by extension, pave the way for them to attain scholarship funds that they need in order for them to attend the NCSY summer program of their choice.
Every teen was able to have their own webpage so that people could make a pledge and share their goals online and via social media. Sarah Engel even exceeded their goals!
Aish HaTorah created a website called Learnathon.org that proclaimed that this event was, “the 1st Annual Aish International Learn-A-Thon for Unity.” Students and rabbis at Aish Hatorah even created YouTube videos like the ones below to raise awareness for the event.
Aish HaTorah offered three learning tracks to choose from:
1) Their website streamed a 24-hour live internet broadcast with inspiring classes from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Mrs. Shira Smiles, and many more!
2) Participants could also study on their own.
3) Local live events at various Aish HaTorah affiliates around the world.
Once a person chose their method of learning, Aish HaTorah provided every participant with their own webpage so that they could send out an email to family and friends to tell them about the Learn-A-Thon, and ask for donations.
Truth be told, much of the impact of this sort of event can be achieved even if you aren’t an international outreach organization—and even if it’s not Shavuot! Such an initiative could work well on a Motzei Shabbat during Elul or Tishrei to bring awareness and hone your students and congregants focus on the coming days of the High Holidays.
If you don’t have the budget to create individual websites for all those who are participating in the Learn-A-Thon, you can refer them to sites such as KickStarter.com (see this project in which Ber Cohen is trying to raise funds for his “Action Kippah”) or Indiegogo.com (see this page in which Ari Goldwag used this site to raise funds for his new album).
All in all, we think that this is a great new learning and fundraising opportunity that empowers Jews to learn Torah and raise funds for a cause that is dear to their hearts. You can choose to initiate this at any time during the year—and is certainly something worth jotting down when it comes to thinking of how you can enhance Shavuot next year!