Thursday, March 15, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Music Through Torah

(Zach & Nadine Epstein)

We sat down with Zachary Epstein to find out about the inspiration for his new single and what he took away from his first Yeshiva learning experience at the Mayanot Men's Learning Program.

How long were you at Mayanot and what did you gain from the Program?
I went to Mayanot the summer of 2013 for six amazing weeks. There were so many things that I loved and took away from the program. The most memorable experience at Mayanot was a Shabbaton we did in Tzfat. It was my first Shabbat without using a phone, and it was full of Torah, hiking, exploration, and hitbodedut (meditation).

What is the most important thing you took away from the Program?
At Mayanot I developed the faith and strength to grow in observance even when there is adversity and even when it contradicts Western values and culture. I also learned to have an extremely healthy relationship with Jewish Law. I received excellent guidance regarding the importance of slow but steady growth in mitzvah observance and the great value of honoring one’s mother and father. Mayanot also instilled within me a fiery desire to serve G-d and to love my fellow Jews.

Can you share your favorite part of the Program?
It is so difficult to choose my favorite part, it would either be the inspirational d'var Torahs, the spiritual fabrengens, tours of the Old City, or discussions with Mayanot’s incredible students, shulchim, and rabbis about life and Torah; and of course, Chassidus has been a constant source of inspiration and joy since I learnt about it at Mayanot.

Did Mayanot impact your decision to get involved in this music project?
Music has always been a love of mine, and as a youth I had the privilege of performing around the Chicago area as a boy soprano. I'm no longer a soprano, but I do still perform and record. Modern country music is my genre of choice. Mayanot was however, the motivating factor that enabled me to make time for music as a physics PhD student again and to overcome the resistance inherent in attempting to do that.

How did the idea for your new single happen?
I had experienced so much tremendous growth in my Jewish observance at Mayanot and in my understanding of humanity and reality through Torah. I was feeling very proud looking back at my decision to attend even though I am doing my PhD and had little time to do so, realizing that Mayanot had been such a gift, feeling very grateful, the idea for the song occurred to me. King David’s phrase, “One thing I ask is to dwell b’veis Hashem for all the days of my life”. This music project just took off from there. 

Within my music in general, my main goal has become to inspire connection and to bring Jews closer to their creator. This particular song has turned into a project meant to bring Jewish friends and family closer to their heritage and I hope when people listen to it they want to share it.

What else has inspired you to get back into your music?
I once took an undergraduate course on Negotiating Social Change through Music and learned that music has an incredible power to affect one’s emotions and thereby influence one’s perspective. There are many amazing and successful Orthodox Jewish musicians – they give so much, and have so much to give, both to the Orthodox Jewish world and to the world as a whole and I have been inspired by so many of them within my own music.

How have you used what you have learnt at Mayanot to help you in your music?
Two years after writing the song, I saw friends and family moving in the direction of intermarriage and assimilation, and I felt very sad. I took the song, which was then focused on my own Jewish journey and turned it outwards. I completely redid the melody and chords, revamped the lyrics to expose people to a Torah perspective in a way that would resonate with all kinds of Jews, and tried to subtly make a strong case for living a Jewish life within the song, which is something I feel passionately about.

Mayanot inspires people to think beyond themselves. Not just to focus on their own journeys but on others as well, and I definitely internalized that message. 

What is your main goal with this song, what do you hope people will get out of it?
Within my music in general, my main goal has become to inspire connection and to bring Jews closer to their creator. This particular song has turned into a project meant to bring Jewish friends and family closer to their heritage and I hope when people listen to it they want to share it.


We want to Thank Zachary Epstein for sharing his thoughts and insights with us.
Take a listen and enjoy this beautiful recording entitled ‘One Thing I Ask’. 
For a free download, click here. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

From Mayanot in Jerusalem to Chabad of Waukesha With Love

A Torah Scroll Begins Its Journey At The Mayanot Women’s Program

Mayanot was honored to take part in a Torah scroll inauguration commissioned by a student, all the way from Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Debra Hacker, a founding member of the Chabad of Waukesha, decided to gift herself a week of Torah study at Mayanot’s Executive Learning Program,​ in Jerusalem.  With grandchildren on the way and ever growing obligations, she used this special opportunity to formally initiate a project she had undertaken at her Chabad house, under the guidance of her Rabbi and Rebbetzin Levi and Freidy Brook.

Debra and Chabad of Waukesha are writing a Sefer Torah (a Torah Scroll). In loving memory of her mother and grandmother, Ruth bat Runcha and Runcha bat Gella, two women who lived exemplary lives of devotion and loyalty and who gave of themselves wholly to their families, expressing their Jewishness both in life and in death.

Debra commissioned the writing of a Torah scroll that will be the first Torah owned by this growing Chabad community. It was an immense honor for Mayanot to be a part of this incredible project along with Debra and the Chabad of Waukesha.

The highly trained scribe who was commissioned to write Debra’s Torah scroll, lives in Israel and has studied for many years to master the skill of safrut (the sacred art of writing holy scrolls). Mayanot was therefore able to coordinate with Rabbi Levi Brook, to have the scribe come for Debra’s afternoon class.

In a spirit of great celebration, Debra, the students, and the staff, met the scribe at the Mayanot Women’s Beit Midrash (the women’s study hall). With much joy and heartfelt tears Debra inaugurated the writing of her Torah Scroll.

For the students at Mayanot who have spent years studying at colleges across the world but have only recently begun to learn Torah, this was an event of great excitement and importance, one that will surely be remembered for years to come. 

Written by: Mrs. Freidy Yanover, the Mayanot Women's Program Dean of Student Affairs 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rabbi With ALS Gets 10,000 Birthday Presents From 15 Countries

The Mayanot Women's Learning program students were involved in a worldwide campaign to assist Rabbi with ALS celebrate his 46th birthday. 

Written by: Menachem Posner 

Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz has ALS and can no longer walk or talk, but that hasn’t stopped him from motivating 10,000 people in 15 countries to do extra mitzvahs this past week. In honor of the rabbi’s 46th birthday, a group of rabbinical students in Los Angeles, where the rabbi lives with his wife, Dina, and their seven children, decided that an appropriate gift would be 4,600 Jewish men putting on tefillin and sending him photos of their mitzvah.
Using social media and an article posted on, the campaign went viral, and photos of tefillin-wearing men bearing #tefillinforyitzi placards began to pour in via text message and email.
Almost 6,000 miles away in Israel, a group of young women studying at the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem expanded the campaign by taking to the streets on Friday to distribute Shabbat candles to women and girls in the rabbi’s honor. In the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market alone, 150 women took candles to light that evening at home before the start of Shabbat.
Back in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council member Paul Koretz got in on the action, announcing that the city of Los Angeles “applauds [the rabbi’s] towering leadership and inspiring example,” and “joins in saluting and celebrating with [him] and his countless students worldwide on the joyous occasion of his 46th birthday.”
They noted that through his “writings on the world’s largest Jewish website, and [his] personal interaction [with others, he] inspires people across the globe with his joy, faith and optimism.”
The city’s leaders summed up the key motivation behind the campaign by noting that Hurwitz is “a follower and emissary of [the Lubavitcher Rebbe,] Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, who taught about the immense significance of one’s birthday and how to fill it with spiritual content and resolutions.”

On Friday, as the messages came in fast and furious, Dina Hurwitz wrote:
“The pictures and videos and voice notes have us mesmerized. I should be cooking for Shabbos, but I am sitting with Yitzi trying to absorb all of this. What we saw was an overwhelming outpouring of love and kindness.”
“We think of ourselves as regular people with an unusual life,” she continued. “Aside for a few minor bouts of embarrassment over all of this attention, we are really so humbled and honored that all of you did all of this.”
After the rabbi’s illness was diagnosed, a video production of “Shine a Little Light,” a beautiful and inspiring song the rabbi had written years earlier, was created by a number of well-known musical artists. Dina Hurwitz said that this year’s birthday campaign reminded her of “the outpouring of love and brotherhood we saw at the beginning of Yitzi’s illness, and again when the song came out.”
“It reminded me that although surviving a storm is important, it’s not the same as living a joyful life. To all of you who contributed to this campaign, this was just the medicine that we needed: an infusion of love and joy to get us over this hurdle.”

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Florida Recovery House Opened By Mayanot Alumni

We are very proud of our alumni worldwide making a real impact in their home communities. One such story is the Tikvah Lake Recovery Center in Florida, jointly run by  Mayanot Alumni, Rabbi Adam Nesenoff, and his father Dr. David Nesenoff.

With overdoses, substance abuse and many forms of addiction making national news, the Jewish community has not been edited from those tragic headlines. In fact, the statistics are dangerously growing with minimal sustaining solutions to the problem among all Jewish denominations.

After traveling to over 600 Jewish communities in the world, this catastrophic problem did not escape the attention of Dr. David Nesenoff who this year opened Tikvah Lake Recovery, a unique oasis for those who need to overcome their addictions.

"I learned that there was a 90% relapse rate of addicts who actually went to rehab," Dr. Nesenoff said. "I knew that there had to be a better solution." Nesenoff, along with his son Rabbi Adam Nesenoff, decided to infuse strong clinical treatment with Jewish traditional teachings.

Together they established Tikvah Lake Recovery, a kosher Florida Licensed residential addiction rehabilitation facility. The 15,000 square foot mansion on a lake provides multiple beautiful settings to receive treatment from a highly qualified medical and clinical team. Additionally, the grounds include an exquisite environment to pray, learn, enjoy Shabbos and holidays, eat healthy, boat, fish, hike, exercise, swim and reboot one's life.

Among the unique characteristics of Tikvah Lake Recovery is that Dr. Nesenoff and his wife actually live at the facility full time, allowing for very personalized and protective care over the residents. This unprecedented aspect, along with the State health and fire departments' inspections and permits, help produce a safe, warm, home environment.

"There are a few basics we adhere to confidentiality, dignity and a non-judgmental atmosphere," Dr. Nesenoff noted. "And our three secret weapons to healing our residents are our incredible clinical director, our Jewish home and our 300-acre lake."

In an attempt to not exclude anyone in need, Tikvah Lake Recovery has recently begun accepting insurance as well as offers patient financing plans. In contrast with many programs and facilities that attempt to attend to 80 people at a time, Tikvah Lake Recovery limits their attention to a maximum of six residents - for a myriad of addictions.

"The key is to not just stop the addicts' destructive behavior while he is momentarily in rehab, but to actually cancel that frightening relapse statistic as well," Nesenoff said. "And we do that six souls at a time."

For more information, visit

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mazal Tov To The Mayanot Family

May we only continue to celebrate simchas together.

David and Tehara Barrocas
Shalom and Shizue Bergovoy
Dovi and Sara Rachel Braun
Alex and Chana Colin
Ari and Chaya Goldwasser
Zachary And Samantha Gross
Shmuel and Margarlit Hoffman
Tzvi and Esther Ita Holt
Rabbi Yitzchak and Aviva Kaufmann
Evan and Tova Levine 
Michael and Alexa Mechanic
Binyomin and Chava Schechter 
Alex and Noam Scheepens 
Eduardo and Aline Tamezgui

Shaina Boteach to Moshe Gitler
Danielle Sava to Yoel Kaufman
Tali Moore to Brad Widawer

Rebecca Delshad to Michael Ghode
Leah Molayem to Yossi Nussbaum
Sandra Bram to Mendy Paul
Deena Shanowitz to Sholom Ber Wolberg 

Mazal tov to alum Yaacov Cahnman and his wife Tifferet 
on opening their Chabad house in Temecula, California 

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Shmulie & Debbie Boteach and 
Avraham & Tzipi Glick on the birth of their grandson 

Mazal tov to Richard Szental on the birth of his grandson

Please email us to share your good news!

 Send your Mazal Tov's to: 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Gratitude = Hakarat HaTov

Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, a Mayanot Men's program alum and current Chabad House shliach of the Pratt Community Synagogue in Brooklyn, has shared this beautiful idea about Gratitude that we can all benefit from. May we continue to gain strength and wisdom from our students and from our students students! 

The Hebrew word for gratitude is hakarat hatov which means recognizing the goodness in your life. Search for the gifts and you will find them everywhere.

1. Focus on the moments. Too often we focus on the past or worry about the future and don’t notice the moment we are being given right now. Life is really only happening in the present; don’t miss out on seeing the precious beauty and miracles that are right in front of you. 

2. Think of the people you are grateful for. We are so busy with our work and to-do lists that we frequently overlook the gift of the people who we love. It is all too easy to feel distant from the strength and depth of the love of our families because we are so used to their presence in our lives. Every day take a moment to think of the gift of the people in your life – your spouse, friends, parents, children, siblings, colleagues. Cherish that connection and think about how it nurtures and supports you.

3. Remember a time you experienced Divine providence in your life. We can all think of times of Divine providence when we felt God winking at us. Maybe you unexpectedly met someone who is now an important part of your life. Maybe it was a moment that led to a new job or a hobby that you love.

4. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down the simple, little things that you can be grateful for each day. A hot cup of coffee. A beautiful sunrise. A child’s smile. Jot down at least three things each day that you appreciate.

5. Write gratitude letters. Compose a letter or email at least one a month to someone who has helped you or inspired you. Thank them for the blessing that they brought into your life. It is even better if you send the letter but even just writing it can concretize the sense of gratitude that you have for that person’s contribution to your life.

6. Appreciate your health. Take a moment each day to thank God for the gift of your body and each of your senses. Your sight, your hearing, your ability to speak and walk and smell are all priceless gifts. Don’t take them for granted. Cherish them.

--Rabbi Simcha & Ariella Weinstein 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Experiencing Israel with Mayanot Legacy

Last month, the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies hosted a group of 32 people from the United States. The trip, called Mayanot Legacy, was attended mostly by parents of our Birthright Israel alumni, and aimed to give the participants a similar journey as their children had. 

For many, this was their first time in Israel. For others, while they've been here once or more, admitted that the group experience, the knowledgable guides, and the carefully planned itinerary made the trip like no other. 

For nearly everyone, it was their first time experiencing Friday night at the Kotel, a moment many will cherish for years to come. One particular highlight for everyone was the Shabbos dinners at the homes of local hosts. They were welcomed in by people they had never met as if they were long lost family coming back for a visit. The friendship and love made a real impression on the group. 

Levi Margolin, the group's scholar in residence said that this experience was very similar to a Birthright Israel trip. "The group atmosphere, the peer experience, were all very similar but, here, you're dealing with people with real life experience under their belts. That's a totally different ballgame."

The eight day journey began up North, visiting the Galil and Golan, including a visit to Tzfat and then traveled south to Jerusalem, the desert and finally, Tel Aviv where the journey came to a close. 

For more information regarding our upcoming Mayanot Legacy trips, please email or check out the website