Sunday, March 25, 2018

The New Mayanot Learning Network Spreads Even More Torah Worldwide

Mayanot joins JNet to bring students Torah on a global scale. With an ever growing group of students inspired to begin their learning early and/or continue their learning after they leave Mayanot, this opportunity has proven positive for many of our students and alumni. We sat with Eytan Waxman of JNet, a past Mayanot alumni, who gave us the full scoop.

The Jewish Learning Network, fulfills an important need in a convenient way for Jews to connect to their heritage over the phone. Utilizing partnership learning and the traditional styles of Torah learning, JNet pairs students worldwide for half an hour long learning sessions. Usually this entails partnering individuals who don't know each other, but share a similar schedule or desire to learn certain topics.

Eytan’s involvement with JNet began after a year of learning at Mayanot, when he was approached by Rabbi Yehuda Dukes, JNet’s Managing Director, to teach someone in French. Although he wasn’t able to at the time, he suggested another teacher and after demonstrating how many people he knew that would be happy to teach or happy to learn, Eytan and Rabbi Dukes continued to discuss possibilities, and their connection took off from there.

When Eytan began, he thought the priority should become students on campus and young professionals, since a taste of Jewish learning could help inspire them to actually make the leap and try a Yeshiva program. In essence, his goal was to show them how relevant Torah could be in their everyday lives and how much it could add to their overall sense of purpose. Additionally, this age group is prone to travel, has changing schedules, and this type of learning opportunity caters to them perfectly, as it can be done from anywhere and at any time.

Eytan therefore contacted Rabbi Chaim Moss, the educational Director for the Mayanot Men’s Learning Program, who saw this as a great opportunity for future students and alumni. On the spot Rabbi Moss mentioned a student that could benefit from the program; he signed up but couldn’t attend for a few months. Eytan contacted the student right away and he was very happy to start learning. He was matched with a young man from Crown Heights, New York, and after two weeks the two actually had a chance to meet. After the meeting, the student was so inspired he decided to buy Tefilin. "So on top of the learning”, Eytan shared, “some other great things come out of these connections as well”.

Eytan related, “We have since setup, through the Mayanot Learning Network, students from England, Australia, South Africa and all over the United States including Fairbanks Alaska! We started this initiative about one year ago, and since then have students joining almost every week, and we are soon reaching our 100th chevrusa!”

The benefits of this program are twofold, advancing both incoming students and alumni. Firstly, when someone shows interest in learning at Mayanot, the Mayanot Learning Network offers them an opportunity to get started even before they begin at Mayanot. The benefits are tremendous. They can get a head start and feel more comfortable when they do start their learning in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Moss shared, “Why should a student have to wait until their physical arrival to start learning? If the student opts in, they can begin learning one-on-one over the phone before they even attend. They can begin working on their Hebrew skills, if they’d like, and generally become much more prepared for the amazing experience that awaits them with their physical arrival at Mayanot.”

Secondly, this benefits alumni as well. They now have an opportunity to stay connected and continue to build on the skills they learned while at Mayanot. “It is essential for a healthy transition that, when even after students leave Mayanot, they have an ability to stay connected to their learning and continue to develop in their growth”, said Rabbi Moss. “We knew we needed to create a system that made it a bit easier for our alumni, once they returned to their home communities, to stay connected to their learning. JNet was the perfect way for us to assist students, even after they leave the program”.

Mayanot is always looking for creative ways to help ensure that the momentum and incredible growth of learning and experience at Mayanot continues and has an impact even after students return to their home communities. Seeing what kind of an impact this initiative has had for some of our recent alumni makes it clear that this is one of the best follow up efforts we’ve made”, said Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, Dean of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies.

When Eytan was asked about his Mayanot learning experience he stated, “The best part of Mayanot for me was learning how to learn. Since my year at Mayanot, I have received Semicha and now teach and mentor people around the world. I definitely attribute my teaching skills to the Mayanot faculty who didn’t just teach me what the Jewish texts say, but they taught me how to learn the text. Now I am involved with helping to teach others as well and since I knew for myself how amazing the Mayanot learning experience was, I knew others would want to get involved too”.

For many alumni, especially from the shorter term programs, such as the Post Birthright Israel extension, the Summer Program and Winter Program, this initiative has been an incredible follow up opportunity. Our alumni can now keep up with their learning even after they leave the program.

We are very grateful to our alumnus, Eytan Waxman, who made this opportunity possible. We hope that these connections will continue to be available to our alumni and future students, the opportunity to continue building their skills, confidence, and increasing their overall connection to their Judaism.

For those interested in joining the Mayanot Learning Network please contact: [email protected]

Pre Pesach Mazal Tov's

May we only continue to celebrate simchas together.

Penina and Jason Allen had a baby boy 
Pia and Amram BenDavid had a baby boy
Max and Mariya Dayan had a baby girl
Chaya and Shimon Dubinsky had a baby boy
Elizabeth and Matt Esterhorn had a baby girl
Yossi and Shterny Glick had a baby boy 
Nessia and Yerachmiel Goldstein had a baby girl
Shula and Lior Gorgi had a baby girl 
Jesse and Chanie Kaufman had a baby girl
Noa and Michoel Klein had a baby girl
Ariella Malka and Moshe Kranz had a baby boy
Ariella and Jacob Rich had a baby boy
Yosef and Devora Romano had a baby boy
Isaac and Natalie Schapira had a baby boy
Rachel and Shachar Shaltil had twins
Lauren and Dovid Ussishkin had a baby girl
Shana and Daniel Wirzberger had a baby boy 
Hannah and Gavriel Witkin had a baby girl

Bracha Rivka Kapp to Moshe Nachman Abramson
Sabrina Benros and Harel Baruchi
Chaya Bekermus to Adam Garcia
Ayla Pastelnick to Zach Gilbert-Burke
Chava Hinsey to Chaim Ahron Green
Danielle Savva to Yoel Kaufman
Ruchama Steben to Eliezer Phillips
Shifra Landry to Jason Segal
Shterny Fogelman to Mendy Tubal

A big Mazal Tov to our Board Member
Yaakov and his wife Karen Cohen on the birth of their grandson,
and to the parents Michal and Yoni Katzir!

(Chava Hensey and Chaim Ahron Green)

(Chaya Bekermus and Adam Garcia)

(Sabrina Benros and Harel Baruchi) 

Please email us to share your good news!
 Send your Mazal Tov's to: [email protected] 

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