22 Jan Q&A With Project Tzitzis Founders Sholom Becher & Aaron Skriloff
Project Tzitzis founders names: Sholom Becher & Yehuda Yosef Aron Skriloff
Lives currently in: Sholom Becher – Flatbush
Aaron Skriloff -originally from Brooklyn; currently in Yeshiva in Yerushalayim
Family: Sholom Becher – Married with 4 kid’s knh, each of whom are unbelievably supportive of the Project.
Aaron Skriloff- single
Yeshivas growing up: Sholom Becher -Mir, Edison RJJ, Derech Chaim & Adelphia
Aaron Skriloff- Yeshiva Tiferes Shmuel, TJ Tiferes Jerusalem
Currently Davens at: Sholom Becher – Khal Ohel Yakov under Rabbi Yisroel Polak
Aaron Skriloff- in Yeshiva
Year Project Tzitzis began: December 2018
Project Tzitzis is based out of: Sholom Becher’s house & car trunk
Approximate Amount of Tzitzis Given out by Project Tzitzis to Date: 3,150
Employees at Project Tzitzis: No employees, just Sholom Becher, Aaron Skriloff & Nesanel Epstein aka “The Tallisman”.
What is Project Tzitzis?
Sholom Becher & Aaron Skriloff: Project Tzitzis is a non-profit organization whose mission is to give out Free Tzitzis to those who either don’t wear Tzitzis or who want to start wearing their Tzitzis out. Aside for giving out Tzitzis at no cost, the goal is to also spread the word of the importance and meaning of the amazing mitzvah of Tzitzis. We have been blessed to have given out over 3,100 pairs of Tzitzis since we started Project Tzitzis in December 2018. Project Tzitzis is based out of Brooklyn, N.Y. and we have been able to put Tzitzis on people in more than twenty countries around the world.
How did it start? What inspired you to do this?
AS: Mr Sholom Becher and I are co-founders of Project Tzitzis but before we start, I want to give a little background on where I was in life. Back then I was having a lot of trouble with religion and was having issues in most areas of Judaism. I hadn’t kept Shabbos in close to two years and I wasn’t having any luck connecting to Hashem. I felt myself drifting away from Hashem day by day. One day last year when I was in 12th grade, I went to school minding my own business. I was stuck on a crowded bus and a woman started yelling at me because my knee bumped into her purse. I brushed it off until I got off the bus to start walking to school and someone in a car started yelling at me to take my headphones off. At this point, I was really annoyed and short tempered, probably because I had stayed up all night on my phone and my patience was running out and so I just started yelling back at the guy. Then things got worse- I work for an organization that supplies services for kids with special needs and at the end of every month I have to give in a monthly summary to let them know what I’ve done with the kid and how he’s improving. So right after I was done yelling, I got a phone call from my supervisor from my job. She told me how since I handed in my monthly summary late, I wouldn’t get paid on time. At this point I knew it was going to be a horrible day and that nothing was going to go right. I went to school and told my Rebbie about what happened on my way there. He told me that he couldn’t help with handing in my work late, but he could help me with how people look at me and interact with me. He said I should go to Judaica Place and pick up a pair of Tzitzis. I thought to myself, “How will that help me?” but I trusted him and I got a pair of Tzitzis. The day passed by and nothing really happened. I finished school and was getting ready to walk home. I walked outside, took off my yarmulke, and started walking to the train. As I was walking, I saw my Tzitzis hit off my leg. I thought to myself how weird it must it look to be wearing Tzitzis, but not a yarmulke. So I put the yarmulke on and continued home. Later that night, I went out with my friend and kept the Tzitzis and yarmulke on. We were walking down a street and I dropped a curse word and a non-Jewish woman turned towards me and said, “That’s not the way a Jewish boy should talk.” I thought about it and I told myself, “What does she know? She doesn’t know me.” I continued walking and was about to say the same word, but I thought about what she said. I said to myself, “Forget it. I don’t need to say it.” I got home and thought about what happened. Then I remembered something my Rebbie once said during class. “Your restrictions are what make you a part of something.” I always thought how you can say a statement that applies to everyone. For the past few years, I had tried to hide the fact that I was Jewish. I always tried to fit into “society” and not stand out. It hit me that I wasn’t a part of anything. I lived my life like them, yet I wasn’t one of them. After a week or two of contemplating these events, I thought to myself, “I can’t just stay in this middle ground forever. I need to make a goal.” So I decided to try and keep Shabbos. Before every Shabbos, I would give my phone to a Rabbi close to my house and I would try to keep Shabbos. I was very successful! After about a month, I went to the Becher’s for a meal and I was talking to Sholom telling him how Tzitzis had led me to keep Shabbos. After the meal he came over to me and said he would earmark $1,000 dollars towards getting people Tzitzis who don’t have. He figured if Tzitzis could inspire me, it could inspire others. I was like, “Awesome! Let’s do it!” After Shabbos ended, he sent me a logo design and suggested that we call our idea “Project Tzitzis.” We worked towards getting people Tzitzis. About a month or two later, I asked Sholom how much money we had left and he said that we more than surpassed the $1,000 he had initially allocated. From that point on we have been working towards what it is today. We have given out 3100 plus pairs of Tzitzis and iy’H we will keep giving out more.
SB: Please watch the video of Aron Skriloff on our website www.projecttzitzis.com where he tells his story. It’s a beautiful and inspiring story so much so that it has made my own life’s goal to get as many of Klal Yisroel to wear Tzitzis as possible. I don’t care what clothing you wear nor what aveiros you do – I just want all of Klal Yisroel to walk around wearing Tzitzis & to be proud to be a Jew, especially in these turbulent times.
Why Tzitzis? There are so many mitzvahs to focus in on. Why specifically Tzitzis?
AS: Because it changed my life from the moment I put them on. Every single time I take a step and I feel them hit against my leg, it reminds me that I’m a Jew.
SB: Aron’s story is the posuk in real life- U’Reisem Oso U’zechartem… the mitzvah of Tzitzis is the one that will lead to all others!
To whom do you give Tzitzis?
SB: We give to anyone who either doesn’t wear Tzitzis or who wants to start wearing them out.
AS: Those who don’t wear or don’t have access to them are primarily the first to receive. We also work with multiple schools to help identify students who would benefit from this Project.
How does someone get a pair of Tzitzis from Project Tzitzis? How do they find you?
SB & AS: They can either contact either one of us on WhatsApp or they can visit our website. We’ll ship it directly to them.
What do you do when you are not working on Project Tzitzis?
SB: Live, family, life, work & entertain primarily Yeshiva bochurim on WhatsApp, but that’s another story for another time.
AS: I’m in yeshiva so a lot of different things.
Do you offer both Ashkenazi & Sephardi style Tzitzis?
AS & SB: We prefer & encourage people to go to a store & buy a pair that they are comfortable with. On our Website we offer both Ashkenazi & Sephardi Tzitzis in both regular form & undershirt.
Is there a catch? How do you make sure that someone that you give Tzitzis to will actually wear the Tzitzis? Are there specific requirements?
SB: Our objective is to give to anyone who either doesn’t wear Tzitzis or who wants to start wearing them out. Obviously some people do not wear them consistently, but every day that they do wear Tzitzis is one less day that they aren’t wearing. While that isn’t our primary goal, we have heard about the slow & steady stream of individuals who report that they now wear Tzitzis daily. I also have a group of individuals who agreed to only wear them one day per week – usually Shabbos.
What type of Tzitzis are you giving out? Who makes them?
SB: If we aren’t reimbursing individually from wherever people bought them, then almost all of the Tzitzis we give out are brought in from Eretz Yisroel. I discovered a super comfortable cotton Tzitzis in Israel and have people bring them into the States for me on a constant basis. Comfort is the key reason why many people don’t wear Tzitzis which is why we encourage and prefer that people go to a store & buy a pair that they are comfortable wearing. Website orders are shipped directly from Keter & I would like to give a shout out to Rabbi Yissocher Sussman for assisting me for all the Keter orders – both individual pair orders and the complicated school orders.
AS: Yes really huge and special thanks to Rabbi Yisocher Sussman who helps us coordinate our orders. We offer cotton & undershirt Tzitzis in both Ashkenazi & Sephardi styles on the website.
If someone asked you for Tzitzis with techeles on it, would you give them a pair?
SB & AS: We don’t give or reimburse specifically for techeles or wool, but if you are otherwise eligible for project Tzitzis and that is what you choose we will reimburse you for up to $25 towards your pair.
Any cool stories that you can share with us about how a person’s life or outlook on life has changed because you gave them a pair of Tzitzis?
Two stories come to mind. About three weeks after I reimbursed someone for Tzitzis they had bought, they texted me the following story. It was summer time and this individual was leaving to drive upstate but when he got into his car he realized that he had forgotten to put on his Tzitzis. He ran back into house to put them on and when he came out of his house, he saw that there had been a massive accident on his street corner. If he hadn’t gone back to put the Tzitzis on he would have been a casualty in that accident. The second story involves a non frum person I met in a cemetery at a burial for their family member. I had my Tzitzis out by accident (one is not supposed to wear their Tzitzis out in a cemetery) as I forgot to tuck them in. I was talking with a son or son in law of the deceased & he began asking me about what Tzitzis are, etc. I explained about the mitzvah and shmira of Tzitzis and that it would be a huge zchus for the neshoma if he started to wear them. After the Shiva, he called me agreeing to try wearing Tzitzis and asked me to assist him in getting a pair, which of course I did. He has since told me that he has been wearing them almost every day. Now I need to convince him to start keeping Shabbos as well!
I love your slogan “No strings attached.” Who came up with that?
SB: Aryeh Blumstein from “Thank You Hashem.”
AS: And Sholom Becher!
SB: Not true, it was Aryeh Blumstein
How much time do you put into this project?
SB: Not enough!!! But hours a day, almost every day. (Thank you family!!)
AS: A few hours a week on the website, social media, special events and online orders.
Which Rabbonim do you discuss shailos with for this project?
SB & AS: Project Tzitzis has a Board of 3 Rabbonim: Rabbi Yisroel Polak, Rabbi Moshe Brody, & Rabbi Yaakov Bienenstock.
Who funds this project? If you are giving out thousands of Tzitzis it must cost a lot of money?
AS: Sholom Becher and a few small donations.
You have a beautiful web site https://projecttzitzis. com/ with Divrei Torah on Tzitzis. What are some of the special features on the site?
SB: We have a Tzitzis broadcast almost every day coordinated by The Talisman where we ask different Rabbonim to speak for us on the subject of Tzitzis in order further Tzitzis awareness. Just as important as the mitzvah of Tzitzis is the meaning of Tzitzis and the positive impact it has on a Jew’s neshama. We started two programs that we hope can spread the meaning of Tzitzis and turn an extra garment a person wears into something he can use to connect with Hashem. We have a page called People‘s Experience where we post דברי תורה and stories about people and their Tzitzis. Feel free to join on our website at www.projecttzitzis.com.
Is there anything that we didn’t discuss that you would like to tell Jewish Vues readers?
SB: Yes, Don’t be a fool – wear Tzitzis! You’re totally missing the boat on a super easy mitzvah if you don’t wear Tzitzis. Tzitzis is a constant mitzvah from the second you put them on in the morning until you take them off at night. Aside for all the documented benefits and good things that come to those who wear Tzitzis, wearing Tzitzis is the real shemirah!! Also if you have an idea execute it- you never know! Me and Aron had an idea and rolled with it & have BH put Tzitzis on over 3100 people. Don’t be afraid – the secret to getting ahead is getting started. Remember, you can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you. You can help us put Tzitzis on others by forwarding our Tzitzis link & by wearing your Tzitzis out which help makes others cognizant of the Mitzvah. Don’t worry about looking yeshivish or too frum – remember Tzitzis is the one thing that Hashem instructs us to wear – so wear them proudly with pride to be a Jew!
AS: I’m a random kid from Brooklyn and I found something that inspired me. I started this at the age of 17; if I could do this, and I’m not that special or anything, everyone could do it. Find something that inspires you and share it with the world! There are millions of Jews in the world which means there are millions of different ways to look at religion. Everyone has something to give.