Sunday, November 27, 2016

Experiencing Hevron for Chayei Sara

Sharing this wonderfully descriptive experience of going to Hevron for Parshat Chayei Sara, from our dear friend and current student Baba Boteach. 
I'm currently squished on a bus, stuffed between a suitcase, and my sister sleeping next to me. We, along with thirty five thousand backpack baring, aggressively pushing, passionate Jews are on our way to Chevron, the burial place of our three fathers and three mothers. Being that this weeks Parsha is "Chayei Sara" (the life is Sara), the whole Israel empties out and embarks on their voyage to Hevron, to pay our mother Sara a visit, and show her how much we miss her.
Standing there, waiting as patiently as I could for the bus to arrive, as elbows jabbed, and feet stomped, I wondered how it was possible that thirty five thousand people, many of them young yeshiva students from abroad, were eagerly on their way to show their love to a person that passed away thousands of years ago. Someone we only read about. Someone we are told loved and lived for the Jewish people, yet has never been seen in the flesh. I couldn't help but laugh and tell G-d how lucky He is that He has such devoted, dedicated children.
Although I wish we could all be here together, with Sarah walking around, telling us how long it's been and how good it is to be back, and the Beit Hamikdash standing tall in all its glory, that is not the case as of yet (it will be soon, don't worry).
So, because I can't help myself, and I have to mix chassidus into this somewhere, I would like to give us all a blessing. May we all be able to hear ourselves, our real inner selves, that spark of G-dliness inside us. Communicate to G-d, father to daughter, husband to wife, master to servant, G-d to nation, that we will bring Him down here to live with us, no matter what it takes. May we be able to block out the "many waters" the incessant distraction that try to drown us, and realize that G-d loves us and wants us to choose Him, just like he chose us a very very long time ago.
I really do wish you were all here to see this.

Shavua tov everyone, may we all bring the energy of Sara's life into our week!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Chassidic Formula to Emotional Well-Being

During this week's Parsha of Chaya Sarah, we learn about the first formal shidduch to take place in history, of the union between Yitzchak and Rivka.

We know how critical the time before marriage is and the importance of taking advantage of the opportunity we are given as independent beings to work on our selves, refining our character traits so we can bring our best and most developed selves into a union with our partner.

In creating a oneness and completeness, so to speak, we first need two halves that are whole, in and of themselves, in order to create a wholeness together.  Two halves make a whole only works if each individual is whole in and of themselves, before they can be united as one.

In order to reach this healthy place of unity and marriage, we advocate for the importance of emotional well being for each individual student. It is an apropos time to share this wonderful class by Mayanot Senior Talmudic and Chassidut lecturer, Rabbi Boruch Kaplan on the chassidic formula toward emotional well-being.

We hope you have a wonderful Shabbat!

To watch the class click here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Jewish Life on Campus, Making Big Waves

Chabad didnt stop on campus for us, but introduced us to an entire 

network around the world in which to feel comfortable. 

(Rachel & Jared with the Rabbi Dovid & Goldie Tiechtel)

When I began my sophomore year of college at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, there was nothing more exciting than signing up for the annual Birthright Israel trip. My spirit was dampened, however, when I learned to my dismay that my boyfriend, Jared Neuhausen, and I were placed on the U of I Chabad trip instead of on one of the many other Birthright options that we were hoping for.

I didn’t know what Chabad was, or who Rabbi Dovid & Goldie Tiechtel were, but I knew that this was supposed to be my trip to break free from the Chicago Jewish circle that I was raised in, and to meet new people from across the US. I worried that a trip with Chabad wouldn’t offer me the new experiences I was looking for.
(Photo via

I definitely could not have predicted the effect that the Birthright Israel: Mayanot trip in 2009, would have on Jared and I, and that I would be mentioning that very trip at our wedding seven years later, with Rabbi Dovid laughing in the audience. Not only was that trip a great introduction to a new way of living Jewish life on campus, it was the first of many experiences with Chabad that has weaved itself through our young adult lives and helped us develop into the strong Jewish couple that we are today.

Just last month, an independent study of Chabad on Campus found that participation at Chabad while at college significantly increases participation in Jewish life after graduation. Jared and I can personally attest to this, and can attest to having seen this happen to dozens of other young Jews.

(Photo via

The study, commissioned by the Hertog Foundation and conducted by leading sociologists, surveyed and interviewed 2,400 students and validated much of what I already knew about Chabad. One of the key findings was that 88% of the students who participate at Chabad, like myself, do not come from an Orthodox background. This holds true for us as we both were raised in conservative Northshore Chicago homes, with family Shabbats and weekly services.

I’ve had the opportunity to experience Chabad on campus as both a student leader as well as an observing adult, after returning to the University of Illinois for my master’s degree. I would describe much of Rabbi Dovid and Goldie’s success as stemming from their ability to relate to the students so well. The rabbi is a Facebook master, and he Instagrams and Snapchats. He visits fraternity houses, and lets them ask whatever questions they want.

But when they’re not throwing high fives and sending texts, Dovid and Goldie also act as your Jewish parents right in the middle of campus. When you’re ill, you can count on hot matza ball soup, delivered. When you’re homesick, you can count on a traditional home-cooked meal nearly every night of the week, and five children pulling you in every direction making you forget you’re on a college campus. For me, it was at my most vulnerable moments that I needed a heartfelt reminder that as a Jew, you stay strong and repair the world with goodness, light, and compassion.

My husband and I lost a family member during our undergraduate tenure, and Rabbi Dovid and Goldie played an active role in helping us cope with the loss. This included picking me up from class one day when my stress turned into a full-blown panic attack. The rabbi even drove up to Chicago several times to make house calls to both our families, and did the same for many of our friends as well when they were in similar circumstances.

The study’s report says that out of the 2,400 alumni that were surveyed, the most frequently used word to describe Chabad was “welcoming.” This sort of judgment-free atmosphere opens a host of opportunities for young adults to begin exploring their lives and opportunities, including determining whom they marry, what they study, and how to handle life’s challenges.

As the survey indicates, Chabad didn’t stop on campus for us, but it introduced us to an entire network around the world in which to feel comfortable. My husband and I love to travel, and as Jews, we feel better knowing that we have a safe haven wherever we go. All it took was one phone call from Rabbi Dovid, and we were connected to a network of families that hosted us overnight for amazing meals and holiday celebrations. I stayed with the Chabad family in Costa Rica while I studied abroad my junior year, while my husband visited the Chabad in Rio de Janeiro. Together, we visited Chabad in Panama for Passover, and spent Hanukkah with the Chabad in the Dominican Republic. Likewise, as our lives took us to central Chicago, we continue today to be active with our local Chabad house, and feel well-educated on maintaining a Jewish home.

This is our story, but it is one of thousands being written around the country.

A Birthright trip that was supposed to offer us new experiences gave us that and so much more. Our lives were changed in so many ways from that one trip and from meeting Chabad. While this study has proven the success of Chabad as an organization and in general, for me it is personal. Chabad has offered me a home, a lifestyle, and connection to something so much bigger than myself.

And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Rachel Neuhausen is currently pursuing her MBA at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Before returning to school, Rachel worked as a management consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, and held a presidential appointment with the Obama administration in Washington. Rachel lives in Chicago with her husband, Jared, and their dog, Pearl.

As seen on

Monday, November 21, 2016

We have a baby in the Mayanot family!

Mazal Tov, Mazal Tov
Yita Mirel & Schneur Broh 
on the birth of their firstborn son!

Mazal tov to the new Grandparents:
Our esteemed Rabbi Shloime & Rebitzen Rivka Marga Gestetner
and Rabbi Lior & Tirzah Broh from Melbourne Australia.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Needle in a Haystack: Finding a Bone Marrow Donor

We recently published an article on our blog about a brave young man, Taylor Crampton, who was on a Birthright Israel: Mayanot trip in 2009 and joined the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry and was called on to save a life. On February 8, 2016, Taylor donated bone marrow to a 44 year old female with Severe Aplastic Anemia. When asked if he would like to meet his recipient, he said, “if ever she was up to it, it would be my pleasure and honor to meet her”. Unfortunatly, most donors don’t get the chance to meet the recipients of their marrow donation.

We, at Mayanot, had no idea that so soon after we published that article, we would have the opportunity to witness a donor from another Mayanot trip and his marrow recipient, meet for the first time here in Jerusalem.

At the recent Birthright Israel Seminar, held at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange this past October, a recognition seminar took place in memory of JJ Greenberg. Gift of Life gave a presentation with the intention of encouraging tour educators to develop a greater awareness and become more involved, as well as help more participants get into the registry. The highlight of the event was that the organizers flew in a donor from the U.S. to meet with the recipient of his marrow transplant, for the first time.

Etty Barzelai, a 57 year old women from Ramat Aviv, a wife & mother,  practicing lawyer and trained anesthesiologist, was diagnosed on Feb 20th, 2013 with acute leukemia, and as she says, “I was reborn on the 1st of April 2014 when I received my bone marrow transplant”.

Peter Schottenfels, was on a Birthright Israel: Mayanot trip a few years ago and at a Birthright Mega Event at the Sultans Pool, in Jerusalem, there was an opportunity for participants to join the Bone Marrow Registry and potentially save a life. Peter decided to get his cheek swabbed!

After finally meeting her hero, Etty proudly stated, “I got a second chance at life, there are not many opportunities like this during our lifetimes and I am grateful to all the generous people who enabled it. The wonderful people of Gift of Life and of Birthright Israel who are doing a holy job, in my opinion. They are responsible for these amazing initiatives; thank you does not begin to express my gratitude”.

Jay Feinberg, founder of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry, who is a 21 year recipient of a bone marrow donation himself, told of how he began this life saving initiative.

He shared that when he was diagnosed, he was told by his doctors that he had no chance of receiving a transplant because, “he was Jewish.” It was explained to him that because genetic matches are best found with people of similar ethnic backgrounds, and there just weren’t many Jews in the global registry. It would be like “finding a needle in a haystack” for him to find his match.

Thank G-d he decided not to give up and began his 4 year search, running drives throughout the United States. Not only did Jay find his match, but his courage and can-do attitude initiated a project that has since saved countless lives, including Etty’s. 

Charles Brofman, founder of Birthright Israel, saw an opportunity to present participants with a way to give back for the gift that they were given, of experiencing Israel. As a way to instill Jewish values, a sense of community and shared responsibility, as well as the occasion to perform this incredible mitzvah of Pikuach Nefesh (saving a life) this partnership began, over ten years ago and will hopefully continue for many years to come.

Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, Dean of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies commented, “There is no question that this project is priority number one for our groups. As the Talmud states, whoever saves one life, it’s as if they have saved an entire world”.

Danny Sack, director of the Mayanot Birthright division, and Shmulik Israel of Jewish Journey, under the leadership of Arnon Katz, have been a driving force, pulling this initiative together over the years and continuing to make this opportunity a part of the Mayanot Israel program.

The same way Jay Feinberg and Etty Barzelai were hoping for a miracle to find their matches. Now there is someone else that is in the same situation and needs our help. Adam is a husband and father of three and has yet to find his match. We are doing all we can to give our participants an opportunity to join the registry but if you are still wondering if you should join, we hope this moving video and compelling story has helped you realize that you too can save a life, to find out how, click here. 

(From Left: Peter Schottenfels & Danny Sack)

Mayanot is a proud partner of Gift of Life 

To Read about Taylor Crampton, click here. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Mayanot Alumni Meet via Global Web Gathering

Mayanot International Alumni Hakhel Day, the first program of its kind, gave over 2,500 of Mayanot’s alumni the opportunity to come together, regardless of their location, around the world. On September 25th, in honor of the auspicious year of Hakhel, as encouraged by the Rebbe, thousands of Mayanot alumni had the opportunity to gather through web meetings, as well as locally with fellow alumni. 

Teachers and staff dedicated themselves to Skype with alumni in 8 different cities and on 4 different continents. Local speakers were brought in from New York, Sydney, Johannesburg, Miami, Boston, LA, Melbourne, and Jerusalem, connecting, fabrenging and sharing Torah! A recorded shiur was provided to the event organizers, as well as posted on all Mayanot social media outlets for alumni to view. Please find the link to Rabbi Allon Silberg’s Hakhel class here.

Throughout the 24 hour period, many gracious hosts worldwide, opened their homes to fellow alumni. Together they celebrated, on a global scale, their Ahavat Yisroel, Jewish unity and increased commitment to Torah and Mitzvos, as the Rebbe directed. Rabbi Yisroel Noach Wichnin, the Rosh Yeshiva, who Skyped with Johannesburg and Miami, shared, “it was truly awe inspiring to see so many alumni that have left Mayanot, go on to do such amazing things within their home communities and stay so connected”.

We want to thank all the gracious host for their generosity and willingness to help make this global gathering such a huge success: Eli Herbst, Eli Bekker, Talia Chaya Bloom, David & Atara Borrocas, Dev Rothman, Becca Delshad, Leah Molayem, Marisa Belinfante, Esther Hecht, and David Duchman. 

A big shout out to Moshe Silver, the Mayanot Director of Alumni Relations in the U.S.A, for pulling together the largest gathering of the bunch in Crown Heights for all of our New York Alumni.
Please follow us on Facebook to find out more about the exciting programs we have planned and how you too can get involved!