BROOKLYN, NY — The first time that Shirley Marrable lit Shabbat candles, she was unsure if she was doing everything right. Though she was born Jewish, the 45-year-old Northampton, England native had been raised Catholic and grew up in a world of church-based services and bible studies, completely uninformed about her Jewish roots. When she stood in front of the candles and stumbled over the Hebrew blessings, she wondered what her children ñ who both attended church ñ were thinking of their mother’s embrace of her long lost identity.
When Jay and Rachel Roth welcome Shabbat into their Chicago home, their memories of growing up in synagogues in Arizona serve as a vague backbone. Both beset with challenging disabilities, they cherish any insight that can spark their newfound Jewish involvement, which began just one year ago.
Though an ocean separates these two homes, they both attribute their sprouting Jewish pride to a single force: the Jewish Learning Network, or JNet.
A division of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, JNet launched two years ago with funding from a generous grant by the Rohr Family Foundation. It matches curious students around the globe with learned volunteer teachers for phone-based study sessions.