Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mayanot Remembers Myra Kraft z"l with Yarzheit Lecture

Last Wednesday night, Mayanot commemorated the 2nd yarzheit of Myra Kraft z"l by inviting Barbara Sofer to speak at the Women's Program. 

Rabbi Gestetner opened the program by speaking of Myra Kraft and her dedication to supporting the education of women, especially the women of Mayanot. He explained that Myra was not only a generous philanthropist, but she was also a woman who was genuinely interested in helping people on a personal level. Myra is an impeccable role model for our students, since she is a shining example of a strong Jewish woman who made a large impact in the world. 

Barbara Sofer was chosen to speak on the occasion of Myra's yarzheit, since Barbara is also a highly accomplished female Jewish leader, acting as the director of public relations for Hadassah in Israel, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. Mrs. Sofer captivated the women at Mayanot with her stories and inspired them to be more aware of the miracles that happen around us in Jerusalem. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

One Last Trip, One Lasting Journey

By: Nadia Kalisch

Our most recent excursion started in typical Mayanot fashion, which consisted of excited shrieking, a singing filled-atmosphere, and someone being forgotten and having to run for the bus (in this case that person was me).  Our last trip on Tuesday to Ir-David, however, was especially poignant as it was the last trip of the year before most of the girls leave Mayanot and a new group of girls arrive for the summer program. With the majority of students having been studying at Mayanot for a year or six months at least, it was the first of many goodbyes.

Ilana, our tour guide, took us through the ancient City of David, introducing new stories and expanding on ones we already knew, ever able to answer any of our eclectic mix of questions expected from our eclectic variety of ladies.

The tour of the City of David includes the pass through the underwater tunnels through where the city was conquered and the city's inhabitants fled. Treading where so many pairs of Crocs had tread before, we had to go single file into the dark tunnels with only dim lights and our mini flashlights to guide our way...Oh, and 25 Niggun-singing girls!

Though the passage was daunting and particularly dark and narrow in places, we sang all the way through the wading water. I can easily say for me, it was one of the warmest and most enthralling experiences over my whole time in Israel. It wasn't that I hadn't heard my 'sisters' of Mayanot cheering and singing before, but there was more that made it sit with me. Maybe it was our last tour with Ilana, or the ancient city steeped in biblical relevance, or the path we were taking that was saturated with history, or the unyielding ruach and enthusiasm of the Mayanot girls which never fails to impress me, or maybe it was the fact that Zeldy was holding Ilana's hand the whole way because she was nervous. It was most probably, however, all of these simultaneously, which completely summed up Mayanot to me and everything it encapsulates.

After we trudged out of the water we didn't take long to dry off between the cool air of the dry tunnel and the blazing Jerusalem sun! We all sat on the Jerusalem stone, in the shade, to do a closing sikkum, where we shared our highlights from our excursions over the year. 

We spoke about the connection between studying Torah and living in Israel and how many of our lessons don't come from books, they come from people and places. Our trips with Ilana fill in gaps that help us create an entire picture of our learning, whilst additionally allowing us to explore Jerusalem and reaping full benefit of studying within Eretz Yisrael itself. We thanked Ilana for her warmth and passion in her lessons. Like many of our teachers, the spark with which she teaches completely cultivates our interest as well as satisfies our hunger and want for answers, which is what brought us to Mayanot in the first place.

I think I might be at risk of sounding like one of the American girls when I say 'We've come on an amazing journey' but I suppose it's correct (they do just have a very appropriate way of wording thing... sometimes!) Yes it's true - the dark tunnels, winding passageways, slightly murky waters and ancient cobwebby stones were something important to discover, explore and trek through in our last trip. Like our personal journeys, they aren't always the simplest or most straight paths, but it's something we encourage ourselves to go through for the better nonetheless. Though it could have been terrifying, we were guiding each other with our flashlights like lighthouses, expanding our knowledge, experiencing the history first-hand, singing all the way through and for some reason seemed to come out even dryer and more joyful on the other side. It was truly spectacular!

I would love to take this opportunity to thank Ilana again for being our wonderful tour guide, Mayanot for organizing and encouraging our awesome trips and all my lovely Mayanot ladies, who made the whole thing that much more special.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

From Uzbekistan to the Mayanot Kitchen

By: Avraham Goldstein

Although a Mayanot student is focused mainly on learning Torah, a tasty, nutritious meal can make the experience all the more pleasant and productive. Since the arrival of Chef David Avraham Kolton, the food has improved greatly. With menu items such as Buffalo wings, Chinese stir-fry, and home-made burekahs, it feels more like a restaurant than the dining room of a learning program in Jerusalem. As a professional caterer, Chef David has a real understanding of food and flavors and has some ambitious plans for Mayanot’s lunchroom.  

Mayanot faculty and students are delighted with Chef David. Jitschak Rosenbloom, Operations and Technology Director, is especially excited about our new chef, "Coming with a catering background, Chef David is a true epicurean artist, caring about the flavor and presentation of each dish.  And he shares the values and passion of our student body." As Mayanot student Gershon Tepper put it “This can't be Yeshiva food.” Mayanot student David Burns commented, “The new food is creative, there is good variety, and the chef manages to make it with mainly the same ingredients that Mayanot used before.” 

Busy on a Thursday afternoon preparing food for the Mayanot Men’s Shabbaton, Chef David was happy to take a few minutes to take part in an interview so we could learn a little bit about the man behind our new delicious food.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and where you are from originally?

I’m from Israel and I’ve been here my whole life, aside from a year of learning in Crown Heights and my time as a shliach in Uzbekistan. I spent nine years as a shliach in Uzbekistan. We had a whole community: Chabad House, mikveh, preschool, everything! We had to leave when the Ministry of Justice/Government kicked all the Chabad Shluchim out of Uzbekistan. There's currently one Chabad rabbi there today, although he works at a non-Chabad shul.

How did you get into cooking, and how long have you been working as a chef?

I have always enjoyed cooking. It was always something that I found exciting. When I returned to Israel from Uzbekistan, I was looking for work. I worked for my friend for a few months, and then started my catering company. We do weddings, functions, you name it.

How are you adjusting to working at Mayanot? Are there any challenges?

The first two days were completely insane, because I didn't know the layout of the kitchen. After that it's been fine. The truth is, I have to work under pressure. I need to make breakfast for about 45 people, and lunch and dinner for about 130 people and it all has to be done and ready to be sent to the Women’s and Spanish Programs by 12:00.  I start at 8:00 in the morning. This is challenging for me since I'm used to catering weddings and functions where the food doesn't need to be ready until much later in the day. As I get more used to things, I hope to be able to find ways to make fancier things in less time.

Any new menu items in the works for Mayanot?

I hope to be getting a new dairy oven. I'll be able to make things like lasagna, egg-plant Parmesan, potatoes with cream. I'd also like to make some Arabic and Moroccan dishes. 

Last week, Chef David stood in front of the dining room and announced during lunch to “please not hesitate to come to me with complaints and comments about the food.”

When told by a Mayanot student that we're able to learn Torah in his merit, Chef David replied, “We're in this together. I help you and you help me.”