What made three lives changed forever

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Look: Samantha Byrd was one of fifty Jews in her small Arizona hometown. Matthew Denton was raised Catholic, with no knowledge of his Jewish heritage. Taylor Shlessel was deeply attached to her relationship – with a non-Jew. They shared an experience that changed their lives. Full story, video

Samantha Byrd grew up as one of fifty Jews in a small town in Arizona. His Judaism was nothing more than a nuisance. In fact, she was ashamed of it.

Matthew Denton was raised Catholic. He knew nothing of his Jewish roots and had no intention of changing that.

Taylor Shlessel was deeply attached to her long-standing relationship – with a non-Jew.

What do Samantha, Matthew and Taylor have in common? Everyone saw their life change when they joined Sinai Scholars.

The Sinai Scholars Society is a joint project of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and Chabad on Campus International. Thousands of students in hundreds of schools around the world take part in this immersive and interactive Jewish experience each year. More than just a course, Sinai Scholars reframes how students from all backgrounds relate to their Yiddishkeit, creating strong foundations and proud Jews.

150 Sinai Scholars from 62 schools have been carefully selected from hundreds of applicants to join the National Jewish Retreat in Miami this year. After a powerful and eventful week of sessions, workshops, friendships and farbrengens, the students were on top form, with many being inspired to begin teaching a Torah course on their own campuses.

In front of a captivated crowd, Samatha Byrd, Matthew Denton and Taylor Shlessel shared the story of their Jewish journeys and how the scholars of Sinai opened them up to a whole new world of meaning and community.

In an emotional moment, Taylor was joined on stage by her beautiful Jewish family – her husband Seth and baby Jack – as she thanked Sinai Scholars for helping her make the choices that shaped her life.

After sharing the steps they are personally taking to grow in their Yiddishkeit and their firm resolve to start Jewish families and continue to inspire others, Samantha and Matthew together proclaimed, “I love being Jewish!”

Social media was buzzing with enthusiastic stories from students and reflections on their incredible retirement experience.

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