J-Beatz serves college students, young professionals
Rabbi Jonny Kersh and his wife, Rebecca, moved with their young family to Manalapan in 2019. The COVID pandemic hit, and left in its wake a dire need for dynamic Jewish programming in Monmouth County and beyond as college students and young professionals struggled to create a social scene over Zoom.
With a successful background in Jewish education and outreach already under their belts, they got to work.
“When kids go away to large colleges, they have the option to join Jewish clubs where they build friendships, celebrate holidays together and in some cases even meet their spouse,” Rabbi Kersh said.
“On the other hand, those who stay home and commute to smaller New Jersey colleges often face the challenge of finding their own community, and the same holds true for young professionals when they part ways with their college buddies and move back home to Monmouth County to live with their parents again. The challenge of finding that place where they can feel a sense of Jewish community with their peers is that much harder now that they are disconnected from campus life.”
The answer to this challenge is J-Beatz. Its mission, according to its website, is to enrich its students with a body of spiritual wisdom that ensures they get the most out of life.
The Kershes have a successful Monday Nights young professionals program which has a word-of-mouth following. It has attracted young professionals from Manalapan, Marlboro, Holmdel and Matawan.
“It doesn’t really matter what your upbringing is religiously, Rabbi Jonny will make sure you feel comfortable and welcome,” said J-Beatz graduate Bat-el Zimmerman. “The classes are full of depth and meaning. Rabbi Kersh is a modern well-educated rabbi that knows how to reach everybody and meet them on their level.”
At the classes, people have the opportunity to mingle and get to know each other, enjoy dinner and learn more about the wisdom of Judaism. The program often has guest speakers, many of whom have successful careers and can offer career advice and networking opportunities.
“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to connect more with my faith and people in the Jewish community,” said Rebecca Gervitz, a student from Manalapan. “Through lively discussions, I feel a stronger connection to Judaism. I am so happy I was able to find this program.”
In September 2023, J-Beatz resurrected the Jewish Student Union at Brookdale College; there had been no Jewish representation on the campus for the previous three years. For the first time, students are meeting other Jews on campus that they didn’t know existed. Students at Brookdale College, Stevens Institute of Technology, TCNJ, Montclair State and others have taken the opportunity to join J-Beatz programming on their campuses.
J-Beatz is dedicated to supporting and facilitating Israel advocacy events on campus. It recently brought student leaders to the National Jewish Advocacy Shabbaton in Asbury Park, where they met 150 student leaders from 30 campuses and learned how to elevate their security and Jewish pride on campus.
Trips are a huge part of J-Beatz programming. It’s impossible for students and young professionals to be proudly Jewish without an understanding of their Jewish roots and the rich history of the Jewish people.
As well as Israel trips twice a year, J-Beatz students can participate in a Jewish heritage trip to Poland. They join other young people from all over the U.S. and visit what were major hubs of Jewish lives including Warsaw, Lublin, Tarnow and Krakow, and then explore the tragic end of one of the world’s greatest Jewish communities with a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau–a once-in-a-lifetime experience the students do not forget.
“Through the J-Beatz fellowship, I had the privilege of going to Poland to expand my Jewish exposure and education by physically seeing multiple concentration and death camps,” said Alyson Bilder. “It was heartbreaking and will forever have an impact on me. I learned, I cried, I questioned humanity, but above all I grew as a Jewish individual.
“It amazes me that the Jewish people are still here, and I am so proud to be a part of that miracle.”
For more information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Kersh is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.