Moshe Ohana grew up in Monsey, New York and went to school nearby in Binghamton. Many thousands of miles away, Rikki Wedgle was raised in Denver, but then ended up attending Syracuse University, which is about an hour from Binghamton. The two of them were so close, yet a world apart. Little did they know that their Beshert was just a train-ride away, and that they’d be meeting and connecting in Denver, thanks to Olami Denver Experience.
While they both grew up with Judaism as a big part of their lives, it all really began when Moshe met Rabbi Wolfe through Olami on a trip in London. “I had worked for Camp Ramah in the Rockies and just loved it out here. I started looking for jobs out here just to be back in Colorado and ended up meeting Rabbi Wolfe through an Olami trip we were both on. It just all kind of fell into place and made sense,” Moshe explains.
Both Rikki and Moshe grew up Modern Orthodox, and both found ways to incorporate Jewish leadership into their daily lives. Rikki found herself serving as President of the Chabad on campus in Syracuse while Moshe was President of MEOR in Binghamton, which was an Olami affiliated organization. Both leaders in their University settings, both with a future in helping to connect Jewish communities, but it wasn’t until they both moved to Denver when the next steps on their journeys would continue.
“We had both been selected by Rabbi Wolfe to go to Spain on an Olami Summit, to kind of represent Denver in that sense,” recalls Moshe with a laugh. “Rabbi Wolfe was, uh, very insistent that I ask Rikki out, and Sara (Wolfe) was too. There was a Shavuaton (3 day retreat in Vail during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot) in June and we again just got to connect there, where I asked her out and we started dating that summer, which was 2019. It was a very natural progression from being friends to being leaders within JewPro (now Olami) to connecting and then dating.”
Today, Moshe and Rikki are happily married with a beautiful baby, still working on connecting with Young Professionals and being active members of a thriving Jewish community—a key young couple in the Shaarei Simcha Minyan at BMH-BJ of which Rabbi Wolfe is the rabbi on Shabbat mornings. “Rikki’s been here a lot longer than me, but we’ve both been active here in the Young Professional community for about five years,” said Moshe. “Denver has always been a revolving door for Young Professionals, Jewish or not, but for those who stay and call it their home base, there is a lot of connection. There have probably been close to a thousand different people that have come through the Denver Olami doors, but there is still a core group of about 200 or so that are here to stay and love the warmth and vibrant community that it offers.”
So what is it that keeps those 200 people here, that keeps Rikki and Moshe here? “I think something that Rabbi Wolfe and Sara have that a lot of other people don’t is really being able to connect with people on a much deeper level – by meeting them where they are at, because they understand what it’s like to maybe not be as observant growing up and to have a strong Jewish journey. They can really empathize with where you are, where you want to go and how you want to grow – and there’s no judgment in that.”
For those looking to find the community here in Denver, or for those seeking the next steps in their Jewish Journey, Moshe recommends you start at The Jewish Experience and Olami Denver Experience, “They’re the best in town. But really – go at your own pace. It’s not a race. There is no judgment. There is no competition as far as who is better or who is worse or who is more observant or who is less. It’s completely judgment free. There are so many organizations out here, and I’ll be the first one to say that not every place is going to be a great fit for every person but find your organization. Go at your own pace, ask questions, get involved. There’s no agenda, no end goal. We all just want to be here for you, to be your friend and to help guide you with whatever you need.”