By Deb Silverthorn
Enlightening the world, bringing a fire to our community’s core, Rabbis Bentzi (Batya) and Binyomin (Kayla) Epstein are celebrating a year of leading Dallas’ chapter of TORCH, an extension of the Torah Outreach Resource Center of Houston.
With programming, services, one-on-one engagement and special events, the Epsteins are firing up those interested in learning and growing their Jewish connections and identity. Sharing time with Jews who are affiliated with any branch of the religion and those who have never connected before, the quartet are excited to reach as many Jews as possible.
“Jewish outreach is our passion and it’s that simple,” said Bentzi Epstein, who until last year had spent three decades with Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA), for many years as its director. “My years with DATA were meaningful and important and now I feel directed by Hashem to provide outreach through TORCH Dallas, to help Jews to enhance their connections however we are able.”
Bentzi Epstein is a native of Monsey, New York, one of five children of Sara and Dr. Menachem Epstein. He received smicha (rabbinical ordination) at Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG) yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey. Afterward, Ohr HaTorah’s Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum — a former yeshiva classmate of Bentzi’s who introduced him to Batya — connected the couple to Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried, DATA’s rosh kollel (dean), and the wheels began turning.
“One shidduch, to my bashert, begat the shidduch to come to Dallas and for that I am eternally grateful,” said Bentzi Epstein.
In addition to Binyomin, the Epsteins are the parents of Tova (Rabbi Eli) Nissel, Brocha Leah (Rabbi Chezky) Wenger, Ahuva (Yitzi) Miltz, Shani, Yehudis, Chaya Raizy and Chaim Zev Epstein and grandparents of nine.
“Our goal is learning Torah and its ways of peace, of shalom,” said Bentzi Epstein, “Binyomin is a superstar and I couldn’t be more proud to work with him. He is smart, charged and a people person.”
Like father, like son, Binyomin, who like his seven siblings was born in Dallas after the Epsteins moved here in 1992, is thrilled to follow his parents’ passion. Carrying on their work and legacy, with his wife Kayla and their children Ayala and Zechariah as part of the process, is an honor.
“My Dad’s love for every Jew is what makes him special and unique,” said Binyomin Epstein. “That’s his life and it’s what inspires me daily.”
Binyomin is a graduate of Torah Day School of Dallas, Yeshivas Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem. His focus is on a population of Jews from their late 20s to age 40.
“We’re called ‘The Chevra,’ the friends, and that says it all. I am all about building a community of awesome, young, inspired Jews and sharing as I too am on my own journey in knowing Torah. It’s not necessarily about ‘observance,’ but about whatever purpose and intentionality we can help bring to someone’s Jewish core. Whether we’re having a holiday barbecue or at a Mavs game, I want to inspire. The greatest nachas is to share an interpersonal connection around Hashem,” Binyomin Epstein said.
Binyomin’s programming includes a “mitzvah of the month,” study of a mitzvah — some well-known and others not-so-much — and then conversation and socialization around whatever the concept is. There are afternoon and evening learning opportunities, holiday and Shabbat celebrations, game nights and more. His goal is to have monthly events for men, for women, for couples and for families.
TORCH, in Houston, was founded in 1998 as a resource for learning and connection through its unique nonjudgmental approach to Jewish education. The relationship between Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe, TORCH’s executive director, and Bentzi Epstein goes back nearly a quarter-century, as TORCH and DATA collaborated on a number of occasions through the years.
“There is no one more talented in the Jewish world of outreach and education than Bentzi Epstein. Anything he does is golden,” said Rabbi Wolbe. “This is a true partnership of professionals, an intermingling of resources and a wonderful opportunity to share between our connections of Dallas, Houston and beyond. With the Epsteins on our team, we will reach — and teach — Hashem’s children in a very special way.”
TORCH offerings include in-person programs and services, online learning and a podcast. Bentzi Epstein, who for years has hosted a “Breakneck Through the Bible” Facebook class, is rerecording those programs for his podcast.
“I love that our voices will be heard through the TORCH podcast arena. With more than 100,000 downloads a month, three of the top 10 Jewish podcasts come through TORCH and I’m excited to be a part of that,” said Bentzi. “I’m rebuilding classes, we’re producing completely new material and we’ll be hosting programs in Hebrew and in Spanish from Rabbis Sharon Cohen and Israel Lashak. Really, the sky’s the limit.”
Bentzi Epstein concluded, “Spreading Jewish inspiration and a world built on kindness through a G-dly caring — it’s why we are here, what we are called to do.”
For information on TORCH Dallas programming and more, visit torchdallas.net.