Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rabbi Wagner, a Mayanot Alum and Leader in German Jewish Rebirth

We are very proud of Rabbi Wagner and all of his accomplishment on behalf of the Jewish community in Germany and worldwide, and we are happy to share this article via Chabad.orgNews 

Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel Wagner is one of the first German-born rabbis 
to be serving in Germany since the Holocaust.

80 Years Since Kristallnacht, Young Rabbi a Leader in German Jewish Rebirth

Rabbi to speak on Nov. 5 at Chabad in Hackensack, N.J.
Written by Yehuda Sugar for Chabad.org

Many rabbis have graced German soil through the ages—some famous, even luminous, like the great Rashi. Today, though, there is one who has the distinction of being one of the first German-born rabbis to be ordained in that nation after the Holocaust, with the added acclaim of helping in the revival of German Jewry.
With a stirring in his soul for Torah learning beginning in his teen years in his hometown of Krefeld, near Germany’s western border, the young man who would become Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel Wagner found a way to quench his thirst. At 18, he enrolled in a social-services program offered by the German government to help people with disabilities in Israel. Once on assignment in Jerusalem, he readily accepted the task of helping a group of religious Jews who needed assistance to attend Torah classes. He then took the opportunity to sit down and learn with them.
While maintaining his social-service duties and with the encouragement of Berlin’s Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, he made his way to Chabad’s Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem for part-time yeshivah study and began to become enriched in the ways of Chassidic teachings. Upon return to Germany—now also with the fire of outreach emphasis in his belly instilled at Mayanot—he established a Jewish burial society as a first project. He eventually studied for ordination, becoming a rabbi at age 28 in 2007, and that same year married his wife, Rochel.
Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel and Rochel Wagner, and family, 
serve the Jewish community in Krefeld, Germany, the rabbi's birthplace.

While serving throughout the year as a rabbi in Krefeld, Wagner also lectures internationally. On Nov. 5, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, and as part of the inaugural programming of a new Chabad center in the fast-growing city of Hackensack, in populous Bergen County, N.J., Wagner will tell his story and the inspiring saga of Germany’s Jewish revival.
It is the theme of Jewish rebirth and revival that moved the new Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, Rabbi Mendy and Shterna Kaminker, to invite Wagner to be featured at what will be their first event after well-attended High Holiday services. The theme is also close to Kaminker’s heart, resulting from the perishing of his own ancestors at the hands of the Nazis in Hungary.
“This is an exciting opportunity to hear firsthand what it’s like to be a rabbi in post- Holocaust Germany,” said Kaminker. “Eighty years after Kristallnacht, once again Jews are walking the same streets where unspeakable atrocities took place. This event is an opportunity to ask some tough questions and hear insightful answers from a Jewish community leader in modern-day Germany.”
“Especially now,” added Kaminker, “after the horrible massacre in Pittsburgh when murderous anti-Semitism has again reared its ugly head, we need to come together as a community and show the world that we are united and strong."
‘How to Survive in a Spiritual Desert’
In the infamous atrocities of Nov. 9-10, 1938, known as Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”), Nazis and civilian conspirators throughout Germany torched synagogues; vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses; murdered hundreds; and dragged thousands of Jews from their homes in what is considered to be the first act of the Holocaust.
Among the calamitous toll was Krefeld’s synagogue—torched as firefighters turned a blind eye—with Torah scrolls rolled onto the street and stomped on by anti-Semitic ruffians. The majority of the Jewish community was eventually sent to a concentration camp in Riga and the Theresienstadt camp in the German-occupied Czech Republic, never to be heard from again.
In one of his many poignant actions as one of the first rabbis ordained in post-Holocaust Germany and the first in Krefeld in 70 years, Wagner and his congregation lit a public menorah on the site of the burned-down synagogue on Chanukah in 2009.
As he prepared to journey to New Jersey for his latest speaking engagement on this special anniversary year, Wagner said he never tires of telling his story and of the ongoing work involved in revitalizing Germany Jewry.
“The best revenge against the Nazis is the return of proud Jews and the resurgence of Jewish identity on the streets of Germany,” he said, adding that it was at Mayanot that he gained the tools “to learn not only how to survive in a spiritual desert, but to make it blossom with Yiddishkeit.
“You can learn a lot in yeshivah, and then come to a place like Krefeld and die spiritually,” Wagner said. “But with the influence begun at Mayanot, I have been able to thrive and help others thrive.”

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Mayanot: Acquiring The Tools To learn

Written by: Chaim Yochanan Cohen, Jerusalem
For: Kfar Chabad English Magazine
How did a German ger (convert) become the youngest Rav in his home city? Where does a bachur (young student) get the strength to walk overnight from his home in Teaneck NJ to Crown Heights? Why would a rapper decide to become a shaliach (Chabad emissary) in Delaware? What happens when an unaffiliated Jew discovers he is a descendant of the Alter Rebbe while spending a Shabbat in Hevron?
These are just a few of the stories I was privileged to hear while conversing with Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, executive director of Mayanot Yeshiva in Jerusalem, along with Rabbi Yisroel Noach Wichnin, Rosh Yeshiva, and other senior staff.

Founded in 1997 by Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner and Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, the Yeshiva encourages its students, ranging in age from 20-29, to acquire the tools needed to learn on their own in such areas as Jewish mysticism, philosophy, Talmud, halacha, Torah, Chassidut, and the Hebrew language.
A newly-created post-high school program also caters to 18-19-year-olds and imbues them with the same Chassidic passion for learning while interspersing Shabbatonim, field trips, chesed (Kindness) projects, and guest speakers throughout the year.

"Overall," said Rabbi Shemtov, "we're here to ensure that what's learned is shared - whether in a bachur's immediate family or wherever else he has a sphere of influence."
As Rabbi Gestetner puts it, “We are interested in educating our students not only in how to learn but most importantly how to live life after they leave Mayanot”. The Mayanot students all around the globe, in leadership positions in their home communities, are proof of the success.
In addition, to the classes and making sure the needs of our students and alumni are met, Mayanot runs reunions from time to time and has a growing community in Crown Heights, where Rabbi Avramol Silver runs the Mayanot Shul. Rabbi Moishe Silver, the alumni coordinator in the USA, works with many Mayanot alumni to assist them in any way they feel is helpful for their transition after Yeshiva. 

Mayanot provides these same tools for women at their seminary in Katamon, which started in 2008. The goal of the Women’s Program is to provide women from all backgrounds with the ability to tackle any of the books in the extensive Jewish library. From Chumash to Talmud to halacha, the women are encouraged to go to the source to find answers to their questions, instead of being given answers, they have to dive in themselves.
Mrs. Rivka Marga Gestetner said “When women learn ‘as they are’, the Torah they learn really becomes part of them, and not some costume that comes off when they leave Mayanot.” Its an authentic environment and students understand they can be authentic with their journeys, as well. 

"Our emphasis is on experiential learning," explains Rabbi Shemtov. He believes this to be the most all-encompassing approach to reintroducing alienated Jews back to their roots. Said Rabbi Wichnin: "The goal is to ensure that students, here at Mayanot, learn to think on their own."
As part of an informal group discussion, senior staff described scenarios whereby students often want to be told what to do in a given situation. Rather than to offer advice, students are encouraged to utilize their own internal resources - based on learned texts - to identify the best course of action. Students have also forged a very strong and powerful connection with the Rebbe, his teachings of leadership and Torah concepts.  At the Gimmel Tammuz Shabbos, at the Ohel, the Mayanot table is a big attraction for people who want to be a part of an authentic Chasidic Farbrengen, in English.
Rabbi Chaim Moss, the educational director of the Men’s Yeshiva program, spoke about the systematic approach to education in which every student can evaluate where he is holding and most importantly where he is moving toward and how he is growing.
Rabbi Boruch Kaplan, senior lecturer in Talmud and Chassidut, said that the inspirational and in-depth system of teaching Torah and specifically Gemara which Mayanot has developed is used worldwide. In fact, newly-created online courses will enable anyone in the world to participate.
Rabbi Elchanan Cohen described how the students, when entering his classroom, sometimes go as far as taking on the role of Rashi and Tosfos when discussing with each other the different positions. “They aren't just ideas on a page but they become alive within the students”.
Below are recent testimonials of current students:
Greg Haft, originally from Plainsville, NY, described how he grew up disenchanted with the Reform movement. But by the time he was in college at Arizona State University, he thought it worthwhile to check out the local Jewish campus community.
Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, director of Chabad at at ASU, invited him for a Shabbat. At around the same time, he heard from six of his best friends that they'd been on a great Birthright trip in Israel called Mayanot that was staffed by the coolest Rabbi. Greg introduced himself to Rabbi Teichtel saying he is from the Long Island area in NY. Rabbi Teichtel responded, “Oh I know some people from Long Island” and after a few minutes Greg realized that he just met his best friends favorite Rabbi from Birthright Israel.
Greg decided it was time to reconsider another trip to Israel. The first one, a secular Birthright program for 10 days, was a good beginning but it didn't 'click’. Now in Aug. 2017, equipped with Rabbi Tiechtel's hospitality and a curiosity about what awaited him at Mayanot, he couldn't believe his good fortune upon arriving. "I finally felt a sense of belonging," he sighed in relief. The many scholarships available have really made it easier for students to attend. 
Chabad On Campus has partnered with Mayanot in providing many options for students who want to join whether for short or long term learning. Tiferes Menachem is a more recent scholarship option.
(Meir Hayoun, Current Mayanot Student)
Meir Hayoun, 18, was born and raised in Strasborg, France. Unsure about next steps after his father's passing, he decided to take up his older brother's offer to join him in Montreal. While there, he began spending Shabbatot with local families. Soon thereafter, Meir connected with Rabbi Ariel Stern of Westmount Chabad and Rabbi Shmuely Weiss, Co-Director at the Rohr Chabad House of Montreal. Rabbi Weiss encouraged Meir to attend Mayanot and with a scholarship from Tiferes Menachem, the dream became a reality.

As part of an ongoing dream to achieve a larger presence in Israel’s capital, Mayanot is currently in the process of building a $20 million, five-story complex facing many of Jerusalem’s major attractions, adjacent to Gan Soccer and close to the Machane Yehuda market. This 3500-meter facility – consisting of a penthouse overseeing greater Jerusalem - will serve as a visiting center and focal point for students, families, and dignitaries.
Rabbi Gestetner shared, that one of the greatest feelings of Nachas is the moral and financial support that the Mayanot alumni express at every opportunity.
In closing, Rabbi Shemtov confided with a warm smile that the Mayanot “family” has been a driving force behind over 100 weddings that have been held between many alumni, over the past decade, and we hope that won’t slow down anytime soon.
Mayanot …. what could be a better way to connect with family away from home?
(From left: current students Ruben Mizrahi and Greg Haft 
doing Mivtzo'im in the Machane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Are You 27-32? Now You Can Come To Israel With Us Too!

For the first time since it’s founding in 1999, Taglit: Birthright Israel has extended it’s eligibility age to 32 years, allowing a wider demographic to come and experience Israel for free. 

According to Birthright, the maximum eligible age reflects changing societal trends with young adults making life decisions – such as getting married and having children – later in life. This change will enable more Jewish young adults to develop connections with their heritage, the larger diaspora community and the State of Israel.

During the Summer of 2018, Mayanot ran two buses of 27-32 year olds. "We weren’t sure what to expect”, said Jessica, part of the trip-coordinating team." All of the applicants we’d had for these trips were from completely different backgrounds, at totally different stages in their lives. Some religious, some non-religious, some were parents, and some were soon to be married. Some were running very successful businesses. We wondered how the trip would affect them. Turns out they had an incredible time – they enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea and exploring Tel Aviv just like anyone else! But more than that, given their maturity, they were able to really appreciate Israel and soak up everything it has to offer.

This is an incredible opportunity for young adults to see Israel through a more mature lens, and really gain from the experience a new perspective on Israel, and a stronger sense of Jewish Identity. 

We hope to see Mayanot’s role in this en-devour to grow significantly, and to expand our efforts to reach more Jewish young adults. No one should have to miss out on the Israel experience!

Under 32? Eligible for Birthright but life got in the way? Head over to 
mayanotisrael.com/register right now and you can still snag your spot for this Winter! 
For more info, check out our website: mayanotisrael.com

Written by: Sam Griffin, Mayanot Alum & Director of Marketing for our Birthright Israel division. 
Via our Mayanot Israel Blog. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Mayanot Mazal Tov's:

Mazal Tov to the entire Mayanot Family!
May this New Year bring us all much simcha and nachas

Mushkie and Shalom Aber had twin girls
Golda and Shimon Yisroel Avraham had a baby girl
Margalit and Jacob Bleakley had a baby girl
Johanna and Moshe Chazzan had a baby boy
Chana Miriam and Elon Golub had a baby girl 
Nechama Miriam and Alex Ioffee had a baby boy
Sharon and Ayden Jacob had a baby boy 
Bar BenAvi and Avi Josef had a baby girl 
Rachel and Elliot Levine had a baby girl
Aviva and Josh Linton had a baby girl
Sara and Ariel Novick had a baby boy
Devorah and Yitzy Rothman had a baby girl
Natalie and Isaac Schapiro had a baby boy
Noami and Tuvya Shleifer had a baby boy
Sara and Yitzchok Shulkin had a baby girl
Mieke Rivka and David Simcha Sidorsky had a baby boy
Maly and Ilan Smolarsky had a baby boy 
Lauren and David Ussishkin had a baby girl
Rivka and Yosef Wolf had a baby boy
Aura and Adam Zartz had a baby girl

Chaya Lopez and Yehoshua Eitan Ruben
Ayelet Rachel Mehaber Shimron and Berel Yosef Polonsky 
Peshy Greenberg and Nosson Zand 
Shira Le Roux and Eitan Press 
Chana Harrison and Yaakov Kaplan
Aliza Robin and Shmuel Gomes
Chanie Yachad and Menachem Hecht
Kayla Wold and Daniel Tamir
Becca Zayon and Koby Rehman
Nicole Litvin and David Fisher


Our building committee chair, Ryan Shapiro and his wife Dinie, 
on the Bar Mitzvah of their son Dovie.

Paul and Nancy Hamburger on the birth of their grandson
Avraham Gedaliah (Evan Robert).

Our chazzan Barak Hullman and his wife Noga, 
on the Bar Mitzvah of their son Natan Chaim.

Our executive office administrative assistant, 
 Sarah Kramer-Rosen, on the birth of her first baby boy

Baby Avraham Gedaliah Hamburger

Mayanot alumnus Ronnie Sternberg (Sydney, Australia) 
and Schirley Msika (Paris, France)

Mayanot alumni Tal Lopez and Paultiel Ratzenberg 

Mayant Alumnus, Adam Zartz, and baby Allegra Molly

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: An interview with Emily Shaaya

"If you know Alef , teach Alef"

Tell us about your background:
I attended the University of CA, Irvine where I double-majored and received a B.A. in Spanish and Social Ecology. Thereafter, in 2012 I received my Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. I am a licensed attorney in Los Angeles specializing in criminal defense. From October 2014- July 2018, I served as a Deputy Public Defender for Los Angeles County, representing those in L.A's indigent community facing criminal charges.

How did you end up at Mayanot:
I attended Mayanot during the Summer session of 2018. While I was initially only supposed to drop in on classes for a few days, I loved the program and the people so much, that those few days turned into the entire five week summer program.

What do you feel you gained on the program:
Mayanot has strengthened my foundation of Jewish knowledge and increased my desire to continue to learn and grow and share the knowledge I've received.

After completing an undergraduate and graduate degree, as well as working for several years, in so many ways my time at Mayanot just tops everything. You're learning about life, you're learning about your soul, you're meeting incredible people, and that is worth the world. What a gift to receive guidance and direction before choosing a path. I am giving my personal guarantee that you will be so happy about your decision to take the time as an act of self-love.

What will you take away with you:
The education I received at Mayanot has provided me with life perspective and reinforced my ability to prioritize the things that are important to me. I saw firsthand what it means to teach Judaism with complete love. I witnessed true acts of chesed (kindness) both in and outside the classroom. 

My experience at Mayanot this summer gave me the courage to begin to bring back knowledge of what I've learned to my community in Los Angeles. I am planning to start teaching a class 1-2x a month starting next week. I hope I am blessed with the opportunity to return to Mayanot to continue my learning. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

5 Reasons to Spend a Semester in Yeshiva

Via: Chabad.org
Written By: Tzvi Freedan

Dear Rabbi,
I’m an undergrad at a private college, doing really well and working hard to get into graduate school. I’m also very active with Chabad on campus. My Chabad rabbi has been bugging me to take off one semester to study in a yeshiva “some time before graduate school.” It’s still not clear to me what yeshiva is all about, and definitely not clear why I should take off in the middle of my studies to go there.
—A Student

Dear Student,

Before there were universities, there were yeshivas. There were people who sat around in yeshivas the whole year, discussing and studying and discussing some more. And then there were people who worked the farm or traveled afar to sell their merchandise, and then turned up at the yeshiva whenever they had a chance, to join in the study and discussion. Jews were always a literate society, and every Jew was expected to be involved somehow in the learning going on in the community.

Traditionally, most of the study in yeshiva was in pairs—two companions poring over a text together, debating its details to achieve clarity and full knowledge. A lecture is generally full of lively give-and-take between students and teacher.Traditional Jewish learning is all about asking good questions, as well as collaborating with others to come up with solutions.

That’s why a yeshiva, unlike a college library, is a rather noisy place. In many ways, the methodology of study in yeshiva is way ahead of that applied in most educational institutions.

Today, there are all sorts of yeshivas. Some specialize exclusively in Talmud. Others diversify, studying practical Jewish lawhistory, ethics, Kabbalah and chassidic thought, etc. There are yeshivas dedicated to young men and women such as yourself, who just want to take off a semester to enrich their Jewish souls, and then get back home and finish their degree.

Chabad has a number of such yeshivas, and that’s the general thrust in these places—to give students a strong background, skills to build upon and the inspiration they need for a lifetime—and then get them back on track into their careers. Only that now, the bright lights of their Jewish soul are shining.

Now that I hope I’ve given you some vague idea of what a yeshiva is, let me provide you with 5 reasons why you should attend:

1.    It's an Investment
This could be the biggest investment you’ll ever make.
You’re bright enough to know that your future’s not made of money alone. The biggest investment you’ll ever make in your life is the person you’ll marry. Out of marriage comes a home, a family, eternity. You need to build a portfolio that can get you a great spouse and build a beautiful family. Add those yeshiva months to your portfolio, and you’ve moved up several notches on the Jewish marriage market.

2.    You'll Gain Skills
You can pick up the basic skills for a lifetime.
One semester isn’t enough time to learn one-zillionth of what you want to know, but it’s long enough to get you some basic skills so you can continue back home.

You’ll learn what books contain what, how to open a Talmud and get an idea of what’s flying in there, what sort of problems require an expert rabbi to solve, and how to dazzle your guests with some fascinating words of Torah at your Shabbat table. You’ll have some of the classic answers to fundamental questions under your belt, and you’ll know where to look for more.

Perhaps even more important: You’ll have the tools, the learning and perhaps even the wisdom to help you get through those bumps and crashes so unavoidable in life.

3.    You Plan to Start a Family
Get respect from your kids.
You may not have even started thinking about it, but you likely will want to send your kids to a school where they’ll learn Torah part of the day. When they have a question or need help with homework, guess who they’re going to ask? And if they see their parents enjoy learning Torah, guess how that will influence their attitude to school?

4.    It's Your Wealth
Cash in on your inheritance.
Jews have been bantering about ideas in yeshivas for thousands of years. And Jews are bright people.

Over these millennia of study, debate, creativity and more debate, we’ve built a ginormous structure, a palace of wisdom, ideas, practical guidance and approaches to knowledge. It’s a magnificent blend of harmonies, an intricate web of wisdom, an edifice of incomparable beauty—and the entire estate is yours, just waiting for you to come and pick up the keys.

Without ever entering a yeshiva, you could still enter your estate. You might make it into the front, and even explore around a little. But if you want to feel at home in your rightful home, you need that immersive yeshiva experience.

5.    You'll Get Inspiration:
Get the blast of a lifetime.
Imagine yourself in an environment where everyone around you is aflame with the fire of Torah. Torah is alive. You can dissect an animal, a philosopher, a poem or a book, an atomic particle or a mathematical equation—and all have one thing in common: when dissected, they are dead.

No one comes out of a philosophy class singing and dancing. But they do when they dissect Torah. Because Torah is alive—every cell of it, no matter how you cut it.

Imagine Shabbat in an environment where Torah is the driving force of life. You can’t. You have to be there. But years down the road, when you’re desperate for that inspiration to keep you going, you’ll close your eyes and see yourself back there again. From that experience you’ll draw eternal life.