Local Organization Works to Distribute Mezuzot Around the World

The recipient of a mezuzah from MyZuzah after affixing the scroll to a doorpost in his home. Courtesy of MyZuzah

MyZuzah, a local Jewish nonprofit organization, has seen an uptick in demand for its services in the months since Oct. 7, as many Jews around the world are looking to showcase their Jewish pride with the kosher mezuzot provided by the organization.

The Mayberg Foundation, a family foundation with both grantmaking and operating programs which incubated MyZuzah in its earliest phases and remains a major supporter of MyZuzah, has extended matching funds to anyone who would like to bring MyZuzah into their community (Mayberg Foundation trustees Louis and Manette Mayberg are members of the Mid-Atlantic Media ownership group, publisher of WJW). MyZuzah is fiscally sponsored by the Incubator for Emerging Jewish Initiatives.

MyZuzah, which has been around for over half a decade, started when several local philanthropists realized that it was difficult for some people to reliably acquire a kosher mezuzah and discovered that there was a large problem with the industry of mezuzah production around the world, with little standardization or accountability to ensure a kosher product in accordance with Jewish law.

The stated mission of the organization is to “put a mezuzah on the front door of every Jewish home in the world,” and to do so in a way that promotes unity among the Jewish people, while also protecting the rights of the workers that produce them.

“We started out as an initiative to put a kosher, fair trade mezuzah on the front door of every Jewish home in the world and have since expanded to providing both individuals and our distribution partner organizations with lots of educational and experiential opportunities to help people learn and grow along their own personal Jewish journeys,” said Alex Shapero, MyZuzah’s program director.

Part of that work is done through a meticulous process where the organization does its research to ensure that the mezuzah is produced by an expert scribe working for fair pay in good conditions to make sure the mezuzah is both kosher and ethically produced.

The vetting process allows the organization to purchase from its distributors in Israel and bring those groups into its umbrella of organizations that are verified to provide fair trade for their employees, while driving up the benefit for these highly trained scribes.

“We essentially helped to cut out the middleman for a lot of scribes and help the scribe himself receive higher amounts and be paid more for their work, which is better for them,” Shapero said.

This process and dedication to their values have caused some issues with the supply chain, especially given increased demand after Oct. 7, but Shapero said that the benefit to the scribes and the people receiving these mezuzot is important.

The group donates on average about 3,300 mezuzot per year, spreading Jewish culture and visibility across 68 countries and over 10,000 Jewish homes, but this year has seen MyZuzah use its entire yearly allocation in just a couple of months.

And at a time when some Jews around the world might be feeling apprehension about showing their Jewish identity in a public way, the MyZuzah program allows people to get this symbol of unity and protection shipped right to them.

“I haven’t had much connection to Judaism for most of my life. The events of the last year left me feeling strongly compelled to stand with my community in both personal and visible ways and has caused me to reevaluate my previous lack of engagement with this aspect of my identity and heritage. I’m proud to now display a mezuzah like my grandparents did, and it’s been bringing me joy to see the mezuzah as I pass it every day,” said one MyZuzah recipient.

An important aspect of the program is that the mezuzot themselves are free of charge, thereby expanding access to anyone looking to show their Jewish pride, and it is a major tenet of the nonprofit’s mission.

“Our model financially is that we don’t expect individual recipients to pay anything for the mezuzah, although we encourage them to pay the mitzvah forward for the next person’s mezuzah. And for our distribution partners, we can expect them to help us contribute to the cost, and the rest of the funds are contributed through major donors and individuals that we engage with,” Shapero said.

And with people able to get the mezuzah scrolls without paying a fee, the organization does have requirements before they ship them out to individuals.

They make sure that the person is eligible to have the mezuzah and then they schedule a 15-minute Zoom call for what they term a “virtual dedication,” where the MyZuzah staff or a rabbinic student will take them through the process and educate them on the proper use and history of the mezuzah.

The mezuzah also comes with explicit directions on its use and people are required to send in a photo of them displaying it, all with the hope of furthering the sense of Jewish community and unity.

“Part of our mission is trying to build community. So, we have an individual on the call who may be from Alaska, Dallas, New York and from Dubrovnik. They’re all on Zoom together, all seeing that no matter where they are, they’re not alone. They’re part of this bigger global Jewish community,” Shapero said.

Despite the current backlog in demand, the organization is working hard to continue providing access to this important cultural item and complete it mission of getting a mezuzah on the door of every Jewish home.

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