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JNet Featured Member of the Month

Month of Cheshvan

Name: Burt Gershater

Burt gershater picture.jpgAge: 68

Location: Flagstaff, Arizona

Occupation: Counselor, motivational speaker, corporate trainer and author

Interesting/unusual hobby: I am a cross-country skier. (Despite what many people think, we have a real winter here in Arizona!)

I’ve been learning with JNet since: January 2013

About me: I was raised in a Reform Jewish home in Westchester County, NY. My family was traditional; we lit the Hanukkah candles, fasted on Yom Kippur and attended a Seder every year at my Aunt Sarah and Uncle Leo’s home in Queens. And of course, I studied for and had my bar mitzvah. I moved to Arizona in the 1970s where I met my wife of 22 years and had three beautiful children, all of whom are married today.

Eight years ago, Rabbi Dovie Shapiro and his wife Chaya arrived in Flagstaff and established a Chabad center. Such a blessing it has been!

How I heard about JNet: I had been learning Tanya with Rabbi Dovie for some time and, while my connection to Judaism was increasing, my thirst for more was obvious. Rabbi Dovie then told me about JNet. I called Rabbi Yehuda Dukes at JNet’s headquarters and, after questioning me closely about what kind of learning I was looking for, he matched me with Rabbi Dov Baron, the administrator of the Crown Heights Chovevei Torah Yeshiva.

What I’m learning with JNet: We have been studying Overcoming Folly, a Chasidic treatise by Rabbi Shalom DovBer of Lubavitch and Tanya, specifically Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah.

How JNet has inspired new Jewish connection in my life: Prior to learning via JNet and before meeting Rabbis Dovie and Dov, I always knew I was a Jew but it only affected me periodically, such as when I celebrated Jewish holidays. Today, I have a better idea of what is means to live each moment as a Jew, reciting the daily prayers and studying every morning and night.

One of my most meaningful experiences with JNet: While visiting New York with Rabbi Dovie for the annual conference of Chabad emissaries and their guests, my learning partner Dov arranged for me to speak to two groups of students in his school. I was nervous. What could a relatively uneducated old man impart to these young men who had studied Torah their entire lives? In the end, I simply told them how my life was positively affected by living in a community with a Chabad House and how important each one of them can be to Jews just like me. The students listened intently and, when I finished, thanked me for the encouragement.

Parting message: JNet is a powerful force. It brings the teachings of our sages to Jews who are thirsty to learn, study and deepen their connection to their faith and Hashem. I look forward to every Sunday session with Dov and, G-d willing, we will be studying together for many years to come.

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