Rooftop Rabbi Rager

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YJPs drink in the Manhattan skyline with their cocktails

Three rabbis walk onto a rooftop bar. This isn't the beginning of a horrible joke. But it was the start of a farewell to summer shindig hosted by MJE at the Up on 20 rooftop bar at the Hyatt on west 31st street last night. 

Walking around in Soul Fit t-shirts, which showed off their not so subtle, tanned muscles that suggests they get more than just spiritual exercise, the only way you would know these guys were rabbis is, well you wouldn't. Which is why I shook each of their hands even though they are Orthodox and that is a no-no. Sorry, not sorry. 

With his blond ken doll hair, Rabbi Mark Wildes, and his dark, exotic features, Rabbi Ezra Cohen, and his piercing hazel eyes, Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, looked more like a Jewish Abercrombie & Mensch ad than the guys who coach you for your bat-mitzvah parsha. (Hint, mom this would have been a great way to get me to temple more often.) Just saying.

The private sectioned off area reserved exclusively for the guests of the YJP chapter of the non-profit organization, complete with a full service bar and comfortable patio seating, had unobstructed views of the Empire State Building and the sun setting over a Manhattan skyline—If If you are into that sort of thing. 

“We’re on a roof, and there’s lots of Jews and buildings around us,” said Noah Lang, 27, as shrewd as his sunglasses were opaque. “I would say we are getting the Manhattan Jewish experience.” Lang who was at the happy hour event with his girlfriend, Thai Vardi, nods to MJE’s Director of Communications, Michelle Soffen, for helping him up both his Judaism and his romance game.

“This is a big win for Michelle because she’s been trying to get me to be a better Jew for years,” said Lang. Soffen, who brought out much of the crowd, also brought Vardi and Lang together a year and a half ago at a young professionals event not unlike the one last night.

Soffen, in addition to Natalie Lebovits, the East Side program coordinator and Atara Neur, the West Side director, was also sporting the suspiciously comfortable (you-touch-one-and-want-to-crawl-in-the-corner-and-take-a-nap-in-it-for-nine-years), and legitimately cool grey and white graphic tees as seen on the rabbi trifecta. No, this wasn’t the product of a fashion fail in which all six colleagues forgot to check in with each other before leaving the house.

This past Sunday, 30 brave, fit Jews and Jewesses delayed the inevitable boozy brunch to participate in a group spin class at flywheel sports on the Upper West Side. The event marked the launching of MJE’s new #SoulFit campaign, which emphasizes the importance of fitness for both body and soul, and has arrived just in time for the High Holidays.

"When coming up with an image and campaign theme for the high holidays this year, we wanted to do something fresh and different. We asked ourselves what is this time in the Jewish calendar really about? Yes, it's about a sweet new year, yes it's about coming together with family, but most importantly, it is about "Teshuva", about setting intensions for transformation, planting seeds for the year to come,” said Soffen.

Rabbi Wildes, founder and director of MJE, explained that they wanted to create an event in line with their campaign that would get young Jews excited for the high holidays, especially those who may not do anything for Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur when away from their families and caught up in the grind of New York City life.

"In order to do our best work on our souls,” said Rabbi Wildes, “we need to feel physically good, we need to take care of ourselves, and cycling is an opportunity to do that. Judaism draws a very strong connection between body and soul. We need both to work in tandem in order to fulfill our purpose in this life."

And let us say, amen. 

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