Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mayanot Points of Light Gala Banquet

Wednesday night, the 14th of Kislev (November 28th, 2012) at the Hilton Hotel, was a night to remember. The inaugural Mayanot Points of Light Banquet Gala hosted over 600 guests, donors, supporters and alumni in celebration of sixteen years of Mayanot’s achievements.

Guests at the event were greeted by Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, Dean of Mayanot, and Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, Executive Director.  Gani Goodman opened the evening with greetings from an alumna. Rabbi Yona Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel, highlighted the unique educational role of Mayanot and Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky brought greetings from World Lubavitch Headquarters.

Steven C. Witkoff was featured as the Guest of Honor. In his response to receiving his award, Mr. Witkoff related: “It is human for people to lose their way, and the mission statement of Mayanot – as I understand it – is to be there for those young people”.

Awardees also included Yitzchak and Tamar Tessler, who were introduced by their son, Mayanot alumnus, Foli Tessler. Mr. and Mrs. Tessler were honored as Pillars of Jewish Continuity. In Yitzchak Tessler’s words, Mayanot triumphs in “bringing young people back to their roots- bringing them back home”.

Many alumni attended the dinner and were excited to welcome their peer Adam B. Weinstein as Alumnus of the Year and their beloved teacher Rabbi Boruch Kaplan as Educator of the Year.

During the evening’s keynote address, Dennis Prager, nationally syndicated radio talk show host, proclaimed regarding Jewish education, “What we have lacked is the answer to “why”.  We told them “how” but not “why”.  One of the things Mayanot does is answer “why”.”

The Mayanot dinner also celebrated the launch of the capital campaign for a new Mayanot Women’s Program campus. Yitzchak and Tamar Tessler pledged $250,000 for the new campus, Kevin Bermeister pledged $100,000 and David Schottenstein pledged $50,000. Their generous outpouring of support has invigorated Mayanot’s campaign to raise $4.5 million to expand their new campus.

Coordinating the spectacular evening were Moshe Silver, administrator, Ruchie Stillman, event planner, as well as Bassie Fine, Shira Zagnoev, Mushka Gurevitch, and Batsheva Lieberman.

Over the evening, Mayanot in all of its facets really shone and a true sense of success was felt by all those involved.

To learn more about Mayanot, visit

To view more pictures of the dinner, click here:

Mayanot Gala Banquet Album

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Honorees at Mayanot's Inaugural Banquet Gala


Mr. Steven C. Witkoff

Steven Witkoff, Mayanot’s Guest of Honor, is the founder of The Witkoff Group, a fully integrated, privately-held real estate investment firm, comprising both acquisition and management components. As the Witkoff Group’s chairman and principal shareholder, Steven emphasizes innovation, flexibility and teamwork as his methodology in always staying a step ahead of the market.

For all of his noted achievements and successes in the business arena, however, Steven Witkoff’s greatest priority is to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Over the years, Steven has been involved in numerous charities and has championed many humanitarian causes. He is an ardent advocate on behalf of the State of Israel and feels very strongly about the obligation of American Jews to stand solidly behind her.

Mr. Witkoff sees Judaism as a “point of light” – a positive and compelling force – that can bring people together in the pursuit of common human goodness and understanding. While relatively new to Mayanot, he recognizes that its students – who come to the program from all over the world and spend time studying the world’s oldest religion in the ancient land where it all began – are perhaps uniquely qualified to serve as agents in bringing this “point of light” back to their respective communities and to the world at large.


Yitzchak and Tamar Tessler

Yitzchak Tessler is the CEO and President of Tessler Developments, a New York City real estate development company and is also the founder of a general contracting company called WBB Construction.

Yitzchak and Tamar Tessler’s charitable and communal endeavors are numerous. Not least among the non-profit causes he has taken under his wings is the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies for which he has become a staunch, active and outspoken supporter.  It was his initiative that led to the dedication of the Mayanot educational facility to the memory of Andrew Witkoff; it was his inspiration that led to the launching of this banquet campaign; and it is his bold action and leadership that is now blazing the trail for the next great Mayanot project: the construction of a new women’s educational facility.


Rabbi Boruch Kaplan

Rabbi Boruch Kaplan was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1956 into a loving and proudly Jewish family. After completing his Bachelors of Arts in Medieval History at UBC he came to Israel in 1976 to study in Yeshiva with Rabbi Chaim Brovender.

Rabbi Kaplan began teaching in Mayanot at its inception and has cultivated and directed the growth of Mayanot’s renowned Talmud Studies Department. Students with little or no background are able to come to Mayanot and in a short time feel confident in their ability to understand a page of Talmud with commentaries. Rabbi Kaplan counsels them along the way, serving as role model and friend.  His wisdom and life experience provide emotional support for the students, in addition to the scholastic concepts and Chassidic thought which he imparts. This inclusive attention, which serves as the basis of the educational experience at Mayanot, ensures that graduates are well grounded and pasionate Jews, playing a vibrant part of any Jewish community they join.


Adam B. Weinstein

Adam attended college at the State university of New York at Binghamton, in upstate New York. It was there that Adam met Rabbi Aaron Slonim at Chabad of Binghamton. In collaboration with Rabbi Slonim and after going on Birthright Israel, Adam resolved to spend a summer exploring his Jewish heritage in Jerusalem at Mayanot Institute.

Adam’s learning experience at Mayanot not only established a platform on which to grow in Jewish observance, but also cultivated an atmosphere in which he made lifelong friends. Mayanot, he says “was a fantastic experience filled with great learning, great friends and great times.” It helped shape his level of Jewish involvement and communal activism.

Today Adam lives with his wife Jodi in New York City, serves as Managing Director of New Mountain, sits on the Board of Directors of the Great Oaks Foundation, along with other charitable groups and professional organizations. Adam is actively spearheading an effort to create programs for the graduates of Mayanot’s Birthright Programs.

His proudest accomplishment? Their 5 Month old son, Noah.

Mayanot Channukah Trip to MASA

By: Dana Driscoll

My first Channukah in Israel would not be the same without thanking those who helped me get to Israel in the first place. What better way to thank them than with fresh sufganiyot

This afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting the Jerusalem office of MASA-Israel Journey in Kiryat Moriah along with a fellow Mayanot student, Liz Halpern, and shared my journey to Israel with them.  Liz & I shared our Jewish backgrounds and why we specifically chose Mayanot as a post-college program.

I personally explained to them that coming from a large Jewish population at Binghamton University and being extensively involved with its Chabad center, I knew my Jewish journey needed to continue.  It was important for them to hear that although my shluchim, who I love dearly, provided me with guidance, it was ultimately the MASA grant that funded the continuation of my Jewish journey.

They were very grateful to hear how Mayanot has provided us with adequate resources to not only grow in our knowledge of Judaism, but in our knowledge of the land we are living in.  The ability to learn intensively and go on tiyulim throughout Israel is something unique to the environment at Mayanot, since it respects the balance needed to grow in an environment so rich with learning.

When asked to identify one aspect of Israeli life we value, I answered, without hesitation, the resilience and kindness of the Israeli people.  I explained that while those 8 days were days of uncertainty, they were also days of clarity.  For many of us, like myself, it solidified our love of this State and our dream to one day be its citizens and motivated us to take on new mitzvahs and learn in honor of soldiers protecting us.  We realized that it’s very possible to be proud of getting on a public bus or sitting in a shelter waiting for a boom because it reminds us that as much as we are spending our days surrounded by spirituality, the physical realm of our promised land makes that possible.

The MASA staff was happy to hear this because they explained to us that the nearly 2 weeks of the Operation were the hardest time for them.  They knew their participants were struggling with the decision to remain on their programs or appease their worried parents and leave Israel.  According to one staff member, hearing that the Mayanot women remained in Israel despite the missile sirens and were even further strengthened to learn Torah gave them a renewed sense of purpose in their jobs.

We finished off our session with the lighting of a chanukiyah with the academic director and by digging into an assortment of donut flavors.  After taking some group pictures we were given goodie bags by the generous MASA staff and left with a newfound sense of appreciation for the people that funded our ability to continue on the journey we are so passionate about.

Thank you MASA and Mayanot Women's Program for this amazing opportunity to come learn  in Jerusalem!