After growing up in an Orthodox synagogue and becoming involved with Congregation Tifereth Israel as an adult, Jerry Sigal realized the importance of Jews of different denominations coming together to celebrate their Judaism, and each other. With that in mind, he started the Shabbat Project 614 – an international annual event to bring Jews together for one Shabbat. Last year, under the leadership of Sigal and his wife, Laura Moskow Sigal, for the first time in Columbus, the challah-making event was held in one location, building further community bonds.
What inspires you to give back to the community?
My inspiration began while watching my mother-in-law, Sheiala Moskow, and my wife, Laura Moskow Sigal, as they volunteered and worked for nonprofit agencies their whole lives. Seeing them actively involved really inspired me to want to give back to the community. As the co-chair of Shabbat Project 614, I receive inspiration every time I made a donor call, hung a banner or observed the annual challah bakes and concerts.
Was there ever a turning point or shift that made you change how you approach community service or become active in the Jewish world?
After my mother-in-law passed away in 1998, I began attending synagogue weekly with my daughter, Becca, who was 5 years old at the time. As time went on, I became actively involved with Tifereth Israel’s board and men’s club.
Is there any particular cause, issue or organization you are especially passionate about? What have you done to address it?
I am passionate about Jews of all denominations coming together to work on common practices. In order to address this, I brought the international Shabbat Project 614 to Columbus. This has allowed thousands of Columbus Jews to celebrate Shabbat as it was meant to be. This will be the fifth year of this amazing community effort.
How did your Jewish background inform your interest in giving back?
Attending an Orthodox synagogue and becoming active in NCSY sparked my interest in the Jewish community. Studying with Rabbi David Stavsky began my initial entry into a lifetime of Jewish learning. I’ve been able to continue this at Tifereth Israel through volunteering with fundraising, board activities, Yad Squad and the Religious Welfare Committee.
Did you have any mentors? If so, what was your relationship to them and how did they impact you?
I consider Jackie Jacobs one of my mentors in the Jewish community. He was instrumental in guiding me through the first year of the Shabbat Project 614. With his guidance, we were able to surpass our first year’s expectations for attendance and the number of events happening around the city. Jackie’s knowledge of the Jewish community allowed us to bring all the agencies, synagogues and communal organizations together for the first time.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the Central Ohio Jewish community? What should be done to promote change?
I believe the biggest issue facing the Central Ohio Jewish community is the decreasing number of Jews affiliated with a synagogue. In order for our community to thrive, we must engage more individuals into Jewish life. I am hopeful the new JewishColumbus becomes the first step toward involving new people in Jewish activities. Adding more intercongregational activities would be a good first step. And of course, continuing the annual Shabbat Project 614 events to promote “One Shabbat for All Columbus.”