At Last: An Interview Studio For My Encounter

A dream for years, My Encounter has concluded the construction of a new, state of the art, interview studio at JEM’s Crown Heights offices.

Over the last fifteen years, the My Encounter with the Rebbe team has recorded over 1,600 first-person testimonies of individuals from diverse backgrounds. From the Rebbe’s life-changing advice to an aspiring politician, to a word of encouragement directed at a troubled teen, each interview is unique, authentic, and personal.

With that, each interview is an investment of tremendous resources and manpower. The perfect space has to be scouted and arranged, and the crew needs to set up lighting, cinematography and recording equipment — usually requiring at least an hour. Only then can the interviewer and interviewee sit down to talk. The process is costly, and many interviews either fall through or were never scheduled due to the lack of a quickly-accessible interview space. A space where two people could walk inside, sit down, clip on a microphone, and press record.

Finally, the My Encounter team has built a studio at JEM’s Crown Heights offices on East New York Ave. Inaugurated a few short weeks ago, already over a dozen interviews have been conducted.

Dr. Jacob Ackerman in the studio

Specifically built for interviews, the studio features darkened and soundproof walls, double doors, and all the necessary equipment to record testimonies. Any time of day or night, any day of the year, the My Encounter team has the capacity to bring someone into their office and interview them.

“The launch of this studio is an exciting day indeed,” said Rabbi Yechiel Cagen, director of the My Encounter project. “The costs of each interview have been reduced dramatically, and we hope to significantly increase the number of interviews we conduct.”

“There are so many people who still need to be interviewed. We beseech the entire Chabad community, and especially those living in the Tri-State area to come forward and share their stories.”

Dr. Jacob Ackerman, an eye surgeon in New York and one of the studio’s sponsors, was the first person to be interviewed in the studio. He spoke about the attention the Rebbe gave him during a private audience before his bar mitzvah, and of the Rebbe’s blessing to his business partner.

Rabbi Shaya Gourarie, the lead interviewer in the US, conducted many of the interviews in the new studio. “Some people think their experiences are nothing special. But as someone that was born after Gimmel Tammuz, I can tell you for a fact that today’s generation wants to hear what ordinary people experienced in the Rebbe’s presence. They want to hear everything and anything involving the Rebbe. Even to capture the feeling of a Farbrengen, what it is like to be at the Rebbe’s tekios, hakafos or receiving a dollar.”

The My Encounter team is still looking for sponsors to help pay for this tremendous endeavour, and dedications are available. A big thanks to Michael & Ricki Verbitsky, Dr. Jacob Ackerman, Dr. Eliezer Herman, Jonathan Cohen, and Ari Sperlin.

A big thank you to Yisroel Silman of Storyhood, JEM’s chief videographer, who designed and oversaw the creation of the studio.

To send leads of people to interview or to get more information on sponsorship opportunities, please email: 

Construction: From Start to Finish.
Mr. Michael and Sylvia Goldhirsch
Mr. Philip Rothenberg
Rabbi Avraham Altein