On September 4th, over 3,000 members of our community gathered together to address the challenges of technology. Project Focus, as the event was titled, was organized and strongly endorsed by the Rabbonim of Chicago. It had become apparent that the time had come to unite in raising awareness and finding practical solutions to help our community deal with the ever-growing questions that technology raises in all aspects of our lives.
The program opened with Rabbi Aaron Topper, founder of TAG Chicago and a major force behind the entire evening, introducing the concept of Project Focus and the first speaker, HaRav Elya Brudny. Rav Brudny is the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn and is a guiding source for Jews throughout America who are struggling with difficult questions in this area. Rav Brudny stressed the importance of coming together as a community to deal with these challenges, especially in the days leading up to Rosh Hashana, the day we proclaim Hashem as our King.
Rabbi Topper then introduced Dr. David Pelcovitz, world-renowned psychologist and speaker. With an array of research and studies combined with Torah sources, Dr. Pelcovitz enlightened the crowd on a number of the key issues technology poses to both family and personal stability and happiness.
Rav Zev Cohen, Rav of Adas Yeshurun in West Rogers Park, then shared his message for the evening representing the Rabbonim. Gathering together over 3,000 people from all walks of life will inevitably lead to some differing points of view. Rather than harp on the few points one might disagree with, Rav Cohen urged the community to focus on the positive aspects of the evening and listen with an open mind to each of the speakers. Rav Cohen also stressed that we must be in control of technology and not let it control us.
Rav Cohen then introduced HaRav Epraim Wachsman, Rosh Yeshiva of Meor Yitzchak in Monsey, NY, and one of the most sought-after and inspiring speakers in the Jewish world today. Rav Wachsman eloquently and beautifully inspired those in attendance to withhold from the distractions of technology and take advantage of the precious time Hashem gives us.
Overall, the event has been lauded and praised as a historic night of learning and inspiration. Hundreds took advantage of the “Kabbalah Cards” that were given to each person in attendance, accepting upon themselves concrete changes they will make moving forward. And stories are steadily building of families who have committed to changing their entire perspective on how they raise their children in today’s tech-centered world.
From the outset, Project Focus’s goal was to take the first step in affecting a culture change of how our city relates to technology. As the overwhelmingly positive response shows, it has accomplished its goal.
Many more programs and initiatives are currently being planned. For more information, go to projectfocuschicago.org