/BY ARLENE APPELROUTH/ //AJT CONTRIBUTOR//
Jewish learning can be life changing. Just ask Alan and Lisa Smirin.
The couple, which will be honored March 9 by the Atlanta Scholars Kollel at the 2014 Tribute to Jewish learning, recently shared how their involvement with the Orthodox outreach group has inspired them.
It all started in 2002 when Alan went to his first Lunch ‘n Learn on a Wednesday afternoon in Buckhead.
“I fell in love with Rabbi Binyomin Freedman’s Lunch ‘n Learns and made it my business to arrange my schedule so I could participate regularly,” said Alan whose retail store is located in southeast Atlanta.
His enthusiasm was so great he wanted his wife to share the experience with him.
Lisa joined him and soon after that the couple was also attending a monthly class for couples, taught by Rabbi David Silverman.
Lisa began learning on her own with a women’s group. There were trips to Israel and invitations to spend Shabbos with the rabbis.
As Alan and Lisa continued to learn, they brought more Jewish observance into their lives. They had their first sukka. Alan led his first seder. They have participated in shabbatons. It’s clear how much their lives have been enriched by their participation with the kollel.
“I try to go to synagogue each Shabbos,” says Alan who admits how difficult that is when you’re in the retail business. Observing the Sabbath as a family is something the Smirins do routinely.
“Even if we’re having pizza for dinner, we still do the prayers and make sure we talk about the Torah,” says Alan who didn’t have this experience growing up.
Praying and learning every day, plus learning one-on-one with a kollel rabbi is another one of the routine parts of Alan’s life.
For Lisa, baking her own challah each week is something that “puts me in the mood” for Shabbos.
But what has made a huge impact on her is learning about the laws of lashon hara. Jewish law forbids gossiping, and Lisa is quick to admit that she does not like to gossip because she realizes that “it doesn’t do anyone any good.”
When Lisa went on an all women’s trip to Israel, she was so overwhelmed that she now says she would love to live in Jerusalem one day.
“Our involvement with the kollel has changed our thinking and also made us better people,” she commented.
Both have learned to judge people favorably and to always be mindful that, as Jews, their behavior will reflect on other Jews.
“People look at us differently, “Alan explains. “I tell people it doesn’t matter how much you have assimilated into society. Jews are held to a higher standard.”
The Smirins have learned to use Torah values in their every day decisions and to see the Torah as their blue print for life.
Just as their association with the Atlanta Scholars Kollel has inspired them, they have become an inspiration to others.
Arlene Appelrouth earned a degree in news-editorial journalism from the University of Florida and her career as a writer and journalist spans a 50-year period; she currently studies memoir writing while working on her first book.