Ken and Beth Broodo of Dallas were inspired on their religious journey by a pair of non Jews, and credit a Rabbi’s blessing with helping them to have children.
The Broodos were both raised in non-Orthodox Jewish homes. Ken is a lawyer by trade and years ago he and Beth ran a small business selling Amway products.
Amway recruits people in local communities to sell its products and provides them with ongoing training, sales seminars and self-improvement classes. Sales people are strongly encouraged to attend the seminars, which are always on Saturdays. The Broodos were not observant at the time, so they attended the events without qualm.
At one of the regional sales conferences, the Broodos attended a sales seminar by the motivational speaker Les Brown. One pithy comment hit home with them.
“One of his refrains was, ‘if you put G-d first, you’ll never come in second,’ ” Ken said.
The Broodos had not thought much about G-d outside of synagogue and the major holidays, and especially never thought about bringing Him into their business. But this one comment made them realize that there is a spiritual element to business success which they needed to explore.
At a later Amway event in Conroe, Texas, the Broodos had another epiphany, also from an unexpected source.
They had arranged a meeting with one of the top-selling Amway representatives at the time, a non-Jew from the Deep South. People flocked to meet him for his advice and guidance. He was in such high demand that the Broodos had to wait for hours to meet with him, and finally got a chance to sit down with him at 3:00 am in a local donut store.
The Broodos shmoozed with him about his successes, their business and life in general. One of his comments made a profound impression on them. Ken recounts the conversation:
“We were sitting there talking about G-d and G-d-type topics. Not Christianity, not Judaism, but just G-d. I said to him jokingly, ‘It’s like you’re becoming my Rabbi.’ His eyes got very big. He said, ‘No I’m not, and you need to go find one.’”
These two comments led the Broodos to start thinking introspectively about their life, their values and their religion. The comments by this man and Les Brown helped them to see that there was more to life than they thought. They beginning thinking that maybe they were missing something spiritual.
After returning home, Beth and Ken began checking out different non-Orthodox synagogues in their area.
“Nothing rang true. They all seemed superficial in their observance and service,” Ken said.
The Broodos continued their quest. One day they attended a seminar given by a local Jewish organization, the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA). The seminar was about the upcoming holiday of Purim. The event presented ideas the Broodos had never heard before, about the hidden messages of the holiday and the spirituality of Judaism. The Broodos were especially impressed by one of the speakers, Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum.
Following the seminar, the Broodos began attending other DATA classes. They began hearing amazing truths of Judaism, and saw that it held the spiritual secrets that they were pursuing. The Amway speakers were correct – the Broodos needed to bring G-d into their life, and they realized that their Judaism was just the way to do it.
Over time the Broodos began spending Shabbat at the home of the Feigenbaums and other families in the community. They were attracted by the lifestyle and the values they were seeing. They wanted so much to become part of the community, but were intimidated by some of the religious practices. In particular they thought that Shabbas was an all-or-nothing thing, that they had to commit to keeping it in its complete entirety or to keeping none of it. Rabbi Feigenbaum showed them how they could take it on gradually.
Rabbi Feigenbaum gave them other practical suggestions. The Broodos followed his advice and began slowly taking on some of the observances of Shabbat. But it took them some time to grow into fully observing Shabbat.
The Broodos eventually moved close to an Orthodox synagogue in Dallas and later became fully observant. A new Orthodox synagogue called Ohr HaTorah was founded in their living room. The Broodos remain deeply involved in DATA and the synagogue to this day.
Ohr HaTorah had its first services in their home on Sunday morning, the 14th of Shevat, 1999. The day before, the Broodos attended the annual DATA Shabbat retreat. Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser was the guest speaker of the weekend, and the Broodos had many conversations with him.
In particular, they asked him for advice about a major source of sadness in their lives – after many years of marriage, they were unable to have children. Even repeated medical treatments and experimental therapies were unable to help. The Broodos literally cried on his shoulders asking him for guidance.
Rabbi Goldwasser had heard that Ohr HaTorah was planning to start in their home on the following day. He gave them a blessing that in the merit of the synagogue starting in their home, Hashem should grant them children.
Exactly one year later on the 14th of Shevat, 2000, the Broodos were blessed with twin girls whom they named Rachel and Leah Esther.
Rabbi Goldwasser’s blessing held true. DATA and the community had given so much to the Broodos, and they had given so much back. It was in that merit that their two beautiful daughters were born.
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