Thursday, October 22, 2015

Parshat Lech Lecha: Which Avraham are you?

Parshat Lech Lecha 
With Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, 
Dean of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies, in Jerusalem

Click on the link below to hear about Avraham Aveinu and his life: 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why I support Education

At a recent breakfast event, well-known philanthropist David Schottenstein explained why he supports Mayanot. 

David and Eda Schottenstein have been partnering with Mayanot for over a decade. At a recent breakfast in Jerusalem, in support of Mayanot, David responded to a question that many ask. Why do you give to Mayanot, an educational organization, when there is so much need and you can give directly to poor people?

Schottenstein explains, “An organization like Mayanot takes people who may otherwise not have a connection to yiddishkeit, and they become completely involved. These same people end up being huge donors to a number of organizations. People, who otherwise may have been donating to an art museum or to the symphony come through Mayanot and they raise their families with Jewish commitment…To me, Mayanot is really one of the best investments Eda and I have ever made. We have been fortunate enough to be involved in many organizations, many of which are amazing, but I don’t think there is a single organization that we are involved with that we feel as strongly about as Mayanot.” 

David continued by explaining why Mayanot is his family’s favorite organization, “I look at it like an investment, you put the money in and what you get with the money you put into Mayanot, it comes out a hundred fold, a thousand fold, not even close to your capital.” 

Students that come through the organization and form a strong connection to Judaism and Torah, leave with not only a passion for the Jewish people, but a passion to help the Jewish people. It’s like paying it forward; helping one student is really like helping one hundred. 

At the breakfast David announced, to enormous applause, that together with Eda he will be donating half a million dollars to the new Mayanot World Center in the heart of Jerusalem.

David Schottenstein's remarks:

Parshat Noach!

Let's share some Torah and increase Am Yisroel's merit in these dark times. 
A Mayanot Moment on Parshat Noach! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ZAKA in Jerusalem Yesterday, A First Hand Account

Many of you know me as an owner of Mike's Place in Jerusalem, or someone who volunteers his time running the Mayanot Shul. But I too am a volunteer in ZAKA, not only a volunteer but a proud Officer.

Today, as terror hit the streets of Jerusalem in two separate, almost simultaneous attacks, I jumped out of bed to help in the streets. I exchanged my pajamas for my ZAKA T-shirt and a yellow vest. First, I arrived at the site of the car ramming and stabbing attack in Malchei Yisrael Street in which one Israeli was killed and several others wounded. But there were already many ZAKA volunteers working on the site and help was needed at the Armon Hanatziv site.

I jumped into the ZAKA ambulance, taking a few members with me and start to drive towards Amon Hanatziv. I felt a sense of horror and déjà vu as we approached the area and saw a bus with fellow ZAKA volunteers, on their hands and knees, clearing human remains and blood from the bus and the sidewalk. These scenes are seared in my memory from the horror of past terror attacks.

I immediately joined them. We worked quietly, blocking out the noise and mayhem of the helicopters, the sirens, the screams, the frustration and the anger that surrounded us. We wiped away the blood. We collected the human remains. Our mission - to ensure a full Jewish burial for the victim, to deal with the terror aftermath in the most dignified manner possible, to honor the dead and to respect the living.

These are the words and slogans I use in my presentations about ZAKA that I give to English speakers around the world. Today, as I worked with these dedicated ZAKA volunteers who are exposed to this level of trauma and tragedy on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, I realized once again how very special these people are. How honored I am to work with them.

I am still deeply affected by what I saw and did today. I have returned to my bar/restaurant. Together with my ZAKA colleagues, I await the next emergency call. Sadly, it will come. And ZAKA will be there.

Later in the evening I head back to the scene on Malchei Yisrael Street, to light a candle and I'm met by my other ZAKA colleagues where we break out in song and prayer. There are no words to express our feelings, this is a way of therapy for us, a way of coping with crisis, supporting each other. what was even more moving and amazing, was to see the community come out and join to support us.

With hope,
Yossi Fraenkel

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Mayanot Moment

Mayanot has just launched the 'Mayanot Moment Series'. 

The first sound cloud snippet for the first Parshah of the year, given over by Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, Dean of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies. 

This series is dedicated to all of our alumni and friends!

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

From Black and White to Grey

Interviewed By: Chelsea Shar, Mayanot Women's Program Alumni 2015

One of the hardest things in life is being truly open and authentic with oneself. Most of us will fail to admit this to ourselves let alone to anyone else. We constantly hide behind shields, defense mechanisms, quirks, humor, anger-management issues etc etc etc. Some of us even hide behind psychologists thinking we know who we are; thinking we are being open with ourselves. But the truth is we are all just playing the game; some trying their best to follow the rules, others to break them.

Mayanot is one of those special places where you get to redefine the game completely. Mayanot, in some way or other, forces you to be open and authentic with yourself – whether this clarity is experienced immediately while studying at Mayanot or subsequently in the self-reflection aftermath. Not only was I honored to experience this redefinition personally, but during my 5 months at Mayanot I was privileged enough to witness it in others. And I would like to share with you one story in particular of a woman who came in seeing only black and white, mostly black, and left seeing grey.

This woman, who shall remain anonymous, is one of the most determined and ambitious people you will ever meet. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies and Business Administration and an LLM in International Human Rights Law. She speaks 4 languages fluently (English, German, French and Hebrew); is a complete intellectual, always searching for and absorbing as much information as possible; and is a champion of an athlete.

Before Mayanot her goal in life was always to reach the top of the Mountain as quickly and directly as possible. She would not veer off the path until she reached her destination. Life was black and white – there could be only one answer, one truth, one perspective. Like every other woman who has stepped foot into Mayanot, she entered with all her attitudes and preconceived notions of life. Life, religion, G-d, Judaism were already defined and delineated. So why come to Mayanot? Well to see what it’s all about. However, truthfully, Mayanot was just a way to examine whether ‘what it’s all about’ fitted into those preconceived notions and attitudes.

At the outset she questioned everything. But she questioned before she even listened (listening and hearing are different things entirely) and so her questioning was founded on ulterior motives. After about a month she realized this approach was not working. With the advice of a friend at Mayanot she learnt that her vessel was too full. All her previously defined and delineated notions were too preconceived, leaving no space for more, new and different information to enter. And so she emptied her vessel, which allowed her to listen, not just to hear. Still at Mayanot, this amazing woman still questions, but now her questions and her questioning comes from a different place.

She realized that life, religion, G-d, Judaism is not black and white. We proclaim in the ‘Shema’ everyday, “G-d is one and G-d’s unity is definite”. This woman realized, like most others that come through the incredibly transformative doors of Mayanot, although G-d is one, and G-d’s unity is definite, everything else is grey.