Thursday, November 29, 2018

Exciting Building Updates

#WhatsWithTheBuilding?! Remember that catchphrase we unleashed last year during our $2,000,000 campaign? We remember it well and we thank you for participating in that campaign. Over the last three years, more than 4,600 donors came together to help us reach this moment. And we can't thank you enough. 

It was just a few years ago, in December, 2015 when you helped us raise more than $2.3 million to make the Mayanot World Center a reality. But you didn't stop there! A year later, you helped us raise just over $3,000,000. Thanks to you, today, we are on the brink of making history. 

(Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, Executive Director, outside the Mayanot World Center)

So, here's where were holding. Thank G-d, we've been able to purchase the building for $9 million, located in a prime location in the center of Jerusalem. Our new property boasts well over double the space Mayanot currently occupies. 

With our building committee, made up of donors and board members from Israel and the USA, in place, we've pulled together a team of experts including our head architect Zvi Weinberger, project mangers Igal Kaptsan, Shlomo Chaimson and host of experts. This team will be tasked with seeing the project through to the end, when we will open the doors to the new Mayanot World Center, forever changing the Jerusalem landscape and the future for thousands of young Jews. 

Now, we are ready to put metal to the concrete as we plan to begin our renovations in February 2019! This new center, that is only being made possible by your support, will change the Jewish future for thousands, creating leaders in the Jewish community and beyond. We will inspire young adults to connect to their Jewish identities and give them the opportunity to connect to the land of Israel while exploring their history their heritage and their culture. To put it simply, We will be ensuring a rich and vibrant Jewish future. 

Pesach Mazal Tov's

May we only continue to celebrate simchas together.

Chana and Ahron Tzvi Altman had a baby boy 
Danielle and Boruch Conboy had a baby boy
Tammy and Issac Freidland had a baby boy
Rivka and Emmet Gilles had a baby girl
Marilia and David Gross had a baby boy
Jen and Moshe Hillel had a baby boy
Moriah and Shmulik Israel had a baby girl 
Rivka and Zalman Kogan had a baby boy
Chaya and Yosef Kurtz had a baby boy
Diklah and Yedidyah Lison had a baby boy 
Davida and Benyamin Murray had a baby boy
Rika and Erez Nagar had a baby boy
Illana and Ariel Nishli had a baby boy
Allison and Gabriel Sarbin had a baby girl
Erica and Zev Saunders had a baby boy
Devorah Malka and Yossi Tayer had a baby boy
Batya Liba and Shmuel Weiss had a baby boy
Joelle and Mordecai Wilshinsky had a baby girl
Yosefa and Benyamin  Wood-Isenberg had a baby girl

Shoshie Glass and Chanan Baer 
Mushkie Shemtov and Tzemach Chazzan
Rebecca Tabibi and Andrew Franco 
Cheli Levi and Samuel Joffe 
Sophia Brenner and Ariel Licht 
Tal Lopez and Paultiel Ratzenberg 
Stephanie Goldberg and Isak Rodikli
Chelsea Shaer and Yosef Yitzchak Sher
Esther Chaya Petrikovsky and Akiva Silberstein
Kayla Wold and Daniel Tamir
Tali Moore and Bradley Widower
Arielle Salsberg and Aron Zukerman 

Special Mazal Tov's:
  • Mazal Tov to our board members Karen and Yaakov Cohen on the birth of their grandson!
  • Mazal Tov to our Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi Yisroel Noach Wichnin and his wife, who recently had a baby boy. 
  • Mazal Tov to Mendel Gestetner and his wife, Tikvah on the birth of their first daughter, Brana Shaina!

 (Wood-Isenberg Family)

(Altman Baby Boy) 

May you be comforted with the mourners of Zion!

We are saddened to announce the passing of:
  • Chaya Schurder's mother, Leba Chana (Eloise) Lubin, on the 30th of October. 
  • Moshe (Mark) Finkel's mother, on the 31st of October. 
  • Henry Valier's father, Bernard Valier-Grossmann, on the 10th of November
Baruch Dayan Ha'emetMay they all have an Aliyat Neshamah

Please email us to share your news!Send your Mazal Tov's to: 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: An interview with Marisa Belinfante

"As a woman in my late 20s who wanted to study Torah, I was hoping to find a safe & welcoming space where my age and life experiences were not only accepted, but celebrated. At Mayanot, I found that and so much more. The more I learned about Judaism, the more I learned about myself,  who I was, who I wanted to be, and how to get there"

When did you attend Mayanot and what are you up to now?
I initially attended Mayanot for the summer of 2016 and returned almost immediately in October 2016 for the full year program, until June 2017. I am currently working in Business Development at a Software company in Queens, NY.

What were the most valuable tools you took away from the program, academically and otherwise?   
My favorite part of the Mayanot program was living & learning with like minded women.
Learning how to learn- which means acquiring the skills and confidence to open up a traditional Jewish book with no English and feel that I can tackle it, which I never would have attempted prior to Mayanot, these textual skills are priceless to me.

How do you use what you have learnt at Mayanot to help you in your life since you left?
Mayanot reminded me to be respectful and mindful of all Jews no matter where they are in their Jewish journey. Each one of us is a gift from G-d, and living with so many different and inspiring women taught me that although we are all from different walks of life, we are all headed towards the same path of bringing light and love to this world.

Also, since leaving Mayanot I plan on running a strong Jewish home with a large & warm family, thanks to the skills and inspiration I gained, while there.

In terms of being a light and helping other people connect to Judaism, how do you see your Mayanot experience impacting you?
At Mayanot, we walked around with our heads held high as the staff and teachers constantly reminded us what powerful Jewish women we are. I continue to walk around feeling that way. All the confidence and growth I gained while at Mayanot has definitely stayed with me. I feel that confidence alone attracts people to find out what drives me, motivates me, and keeps me going. I find ways to relate to all Jews using Chassidus to infuse physical lives with spirituality.

If you could come back to Mayanot to learn, would you? 
Of course! 100 times yes! I dream about my full time learning opportunity often and miss Mayanot every day!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Trip of a Lifetime

Written by: Yaakov Greentblatt, current Mayanot student

The Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies, created a special trip for the Post High School Program, this year. As part of the month of Elul, a group of students, myself included, went to Ukraine to visit the Kaverim (grave sites) of great luminaries and sages that have made a immense impact on Jewish history, including: the Bal Shem Tov, the Alter Rebbe, the Berditchever Rebbe and others.

The trip took place in the second week of the program and many of us saw it as an integral way to get to know each other and bond as a group, before the year began. We were set to learn about the many Chasidic masters whilst travelling around Ukraine. By gaining a deeper knowledge about these individuals great deeds and spiritual contributions, over the course of the trip, we would come to understand the history and evolution of Chassidism, the its connection to our own practices and textual learning.

We began after an early morning flight, journeying to Hadiach, to see the Alter Rebbe, the first Chabad Rebbe and author of the famed Chasidic book, ‘The Tanya’. There we had an amazing chassidus class by the river and at night a beautiful farbrengen (discourse) to prepare for the next day, Chai '18' Elul, the birthday of the Bal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus.

The next day, after going to the mikveh (ritual bath), praying in the Alter Rebbe’s shul and visiting the Ohel (burial site) we set off on our journey to Zhytomyr. We arrived very late there but were greeted by a beautiful dinner, prepared for us, at 1am filled with different meats and salads. It was an amazing experience to be there and have such wonderful hospitality.

The next day we were able to visit the market in Zhytomyr, where there was a large assortment of goods, vintage products and the rumor of live goats for sale. It was amazing to see the culture and the way of life the people of Anipoli live in, in contrast to our own in the Western World. We then departed on our way to Mezibuz, the home of the Bal Shem Tov, where we would be staying for Shabbos.

The Shabbat experience by the Bal Shem Tov’s shul was amazing, as it was filled with all types of Chassidim from different backgrounds and origins. The meals were filled with stories of the Bal Shem Tov and the town of Mezibuz and we were able to meet all different kinds of people.

 A memorable moment, was when a fellow traveller from another group told us a story in Yiddish during lunch, which our shliach, Ari Bronstein, translated into English for us, and then ended up translating into Hebrew, as well, for another table next to us. We had a beautiful song filled havdalah in pitch darkness surrounded by the connections we had made over the course of the trip, and over Shabbat. I believe, Shabbat by the Bal Shem Tov was seen as one of the most special parts of the trip by many, as it allowed everyone time to think and reflect over the week, in addition to creating lasting connections with all the new people we had met.

On our last day we visited the Berditchever Rebbe’ Ohel on our way to Kiev. This was the last kaver (holy site) we would visit and it was obvious, that the trip was coming to a close and that no one wanted it to end. We headed to Kiev and were greeted by one last banquet meal and farbrengen where we all had a chance to reflect on our experience and speak about the trip and how it had affected us personally, and what we were going to take way with us. It was amazing to hear what my friends had gained from the trip as everyone had a different outlook on it and was affected in very different ways.

The trip was an amazing bonding experience for us all, it also taught us a lot about the history of the chassidic masters which many of us did not know. It allowed us to gain a connection to each of the Rebbes in our own way and be able to connect to the teachings when we further learn about them in the future. From the many farbregens, the long bus rides, the deep talks and all the laughter, overall everyone found it to be a meaningful and important trip, that would kick start an amazing year at Mayanot!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

100 Day challenge

During the Summer season our Birthright Israel: Mayanot team was approached by Bring Israel Home, an organisation associated with OU, who had the idea of introducing The 100 day challenge, as a way of getting participants more involved in Jewish activities, carried by the momentum and inspiration of their trips. Assisting them in taking on daily Jewish practices - anywhere from learning more about the holocaust, to putting on tefillin. The completion of the challenge (the whole bus completing it together) would be rewarded with a reunion organized by Bring Israel Home. 

Three Mayanot buses have successfully completed the 100 Day challenge and will be attending the 'Bring Israel Home' reunion in Southbury, CT this November. 
Read some of the amazing testimonials below:

Mayanot Bus 354 

Sofie Jacobson
Last night, I decided to watch Paper Clips. I chose this film because it was recommended to me by a friend and also it seemed like something that I could relate to. Growing up in Orange County, there weren’t many Jews in my high school and my history teachers blew right over the Holocaust when we were learning about WWII. It’s easy to say “6 million victims died in the Holocaust,” but it means so much more to physically see 6 million items. Collecting paper clips is such an easy task that anyone can do it. As the students collected more and more, it really showed them how intense the Holocaust was; what 6 million really looks like. This project didn’t just change their lives and show them perspective, but it also got so many others involved from all over. This movie really shows how important education is and how one project can be so impactful for so many people. 

Watching movies about the Holocaust are obviously hard to watch but it also makes me proud to be Jewish and know that we are survivors. We survived the Holocaust and continued growing after. It shows that we are such a strong group of people and no matter what happens, we’ll triumph in the end. I would definitely recommend watching this film to all my friends. 

Mayanot Bus 410

Jordan Wurtzel 
I interviewed my grandfather, who is a Holocaust survivor from Poland. As a young boy, he was subjected to the worst form of persecution, having been forced into a ghetto in Poland with his family. As the Nazis we’re preparing to liquidate the ghetto, my grandfather, his parents and siblings managed to escape. He spent the remaining years of the war hiding in various farms, joining a Jewish partisan group, and avoiding capture. We also discussed his life in the United States upon moving here a few years after the war, and how he relied on the Jewish community in New York to assimilate into American society while maintaining his religious identity. To me, this is the main source of my Jewish pride. To have family that rose from the ashes to live a fulfilling life while still connected to Judaism means the world to me. My grandfather is my role model because of his heroism and resilience. Despite the horrors he went through as a child, he retained his Jewish faith and has passed it down to my family.  

Mayanot Bus 476

Sam Diament
I tried to use / borrow a pair of tefillin to put on yesterday. So, I traveled all the way to the Chabad of Midtown on 5th Ave (I joke, it was a 10-minute walk from my office) and assailed a random congregant who was in the middle of a very animated debate on why we fast. The coolest thing about this ordeal was how welcoming the synagogue was to a random person walking in and asking to borrow something of theirs. Sure, enabling someone else to perform a mitzvah is a mitzvah itself...but that's the great thing about Judaism. Our rules literally stipulate that we should help other people follow the rules. Obviously this has limitations; however, the outreach within the community is welcoming. 

I am planning to buy my own pair of Tefillin. To start, I'll aim to put them on twice a week and increase that steadily until it's a daily habit. For the time being, I will continue to seek out helpful Jews who are willing to help me put on Tefillin! 

Nick Fleischman 
On Sunday night I attended an Erev Rosh Hashanah service and community dinner hosted by Chabad Boston. The service included Rosh Hashanah candle lighting and prayers, and afterward we all ate dinner, sang, and listened to the chazzan blow the shofar. The rabbi discussed how Rosh Hashanah is different from other Jewish holidays, in that it does not revolve around a particular event in Jewish history (e.g Pesach originates from the exodus from Egypt, Sukkot the wandering of the Jews in the desert, etc.). Rather, the rabbi said, Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the universe itself - both the immaterial world and the material world. Therefore, this is a defining moment for all of humanity, and even all of life, not only Jews. I gained a deeper understanding of the holiday from the service, and also met some new friends. I do plan to go back next week. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rabbi Wagner, a Mayanot Alum and Leader in German Jewish Rebirth

We are very proud of Rabbi Wagner and all of his accomplishment on behalf of the Jewish community in Germany and worldwide, and we are happy to share this article via Chabad.orgNews 

Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel Wagner is one of the first German-born rabbis 
to be serving in Germany since the Holocaust.

80 Years Since Kristallnacht, Young Rabbi a Leader in German Jewish Rebirth

Rabbi to speak on Nov. 5 at Chabad in Hackensack, N.J.
Written by Yehuda Sugar for

Many rabbis have graced German soil through the ages—some famous, even luminous, like the great Rashi. Today, though, there is one who has the distinction of being one of the first German-born rabbis to be ordained in that nation after the Holocaust, with the added acclaim of helping in the revival of German Jewry.
With a stirring in his soul for Torah learning beginning in his teen years in his hometown of Krefeld, near Germany’s western border, the young man who would become Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel Wagner found a way to quench his thirst. At 18, he enrolled in a social-services program offered by the German government to help people with disabilities in Israel. Once on assignment in Jerusalem, he readily accepted the task of helping a group of religious Jews who needed assistance to attend Torah classes. He then took the opportunity to sit down and learn with them.
While maintaining his social-service duties and with the encouragement of Berlin’s Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, he made his way to Chabad’s Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem for part-time yeshivah study and began to become enriched in the ways of Chassidic teachings. Upon return to Germany—now also with the fire of outreach emphasis in his belly instilled at Mayanot—he established a Jewish burial society as a first project. He eventually studied for ordination, becoming a rabbi at age 28 in 2007, and that same year married his wife, Rochel.
Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel and Rochel Wagner, and family, 
serve the Jewish community in Krefeld, Germany, the rabbi's birthplace.

While serving throughout the year as a rabbi in Krefeld, Wagner also lectures internationally. On Nov. 5, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, and as part of the inaugural programming of a new Chabad center in the fast-growing city of Hackensack, in populous Bergen County, N.J., Wagner will tell his story and the inspiring saga of Germany’s Jewish revival.
It is the theme of Jewish rebirth and revival that moved the new Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, Rabbi Mendy and Shterna Kaminker, to invite Wagner to be featured at what will be their first event after well-attended High Holiday services. The theme is also close to Kaminker’s heart, resulting from the perishing of his own ancestors at the hands of the Nazis in Hungary.
“This is an exciting opportunity to hear firsthand what it’s like to be a rabbi in post- Holocaust Germany,” said Kaminker. “Eighty years after Kristallnacht, once again Jews are walking the same streets where unspeakable atrocities took place. This event is an opportunity to ask some tough questions and hear insightful answers from a Jewish community leader in modern-day Germany.”
“Especially now,” added Kaminker, “after the horrible massacre in Pittsburgh when murderous anti-Semitism has again reared its ugly head, we need to come together as a community and show the world that we are united and strong."
‘How to Survive in a Spiritual Desert’
In the infamous atrocities of Nov. 9-10, 1938, known as Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”), Nazis and civilian conspirators throughout Germany torched synagogues; vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses; murdered hundreds; and dragged thousands of Jews from their homes in what is considered to be the first act of the Holocaust.
Among the calamitous toll was Krefeld’s synagogue—torched as firefighters turned a blind eye—with Torah scrolls rolled onto the street and stomped on by anti-Semitic ruffians. The majority of the Jewish community was eventually sent to a concentration camp in Riga and the Theresienstadt camp in the German-occupied Czech Republic, never to be heard from again.
In one of his many poignant actions as one of the first rabbis ordained in post-Holocaust Germany and the first in Krefeld in 70 years, Wagner and his congregation lit a public menorah on the site of the burned-down synagogue on Chanukah in 2009.
As he prepared to journey to New Jersey for his latest speaking engagement on this special anniversary year, Wagner said he never tires of telling his story and of the ongoing work involved in revitalizing Germany Jewry.
“The best revenge against the Nazis is the return of proud Jews and the resurgence of Jewish identity on the streets of Germany,” he said, adding that it was at Mayanot that he gained the tools “to learn not only how to survive in a spiritual desert, but to make it blossom with Yiddishkeit.
“You can learn a lot in yeshivah, and then come to a place like Krefeld and die spiritually,” Wagner said. “But with the influence begun at Mayanot, I have been able to thrive and help others thrive.”

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Mayanot: Acquiring The Tools To learn

Written by: Chaim Yochanan Cohen, Jerusalem
For: Kfar Chabad English Magazine
How did a German ger (convert) become the youngest Rav in his home city? Where does a bachur (young student) get the strength to walk overnight from his home in Teaneck NJ to Crown Heights? Why would a rapper decide to become a shaliach (Chabad emissary) in Delaware? What happens when an unaffiliated Jew discovers he is a descendant of the Alter Rebbe while spending a Shabbat in Hevron?
These are just a few of the stories I was privileged to hear while conversing with Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, executive director of Mayanot Yeshiva in Jerusalem, along with Rabbi Yisroel Noach Wichnin, Rosh Yeshiva, and other senior staff.

Founded in 1997 by Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner and Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, the Yeshiva encourages its students, ranging in age from 20-29, to acquire the tools needed to learn on their own in such areas as Jewish mysticism, philosophy, Talmud, halacha, Torah, Chassidut, and the Hebrew language.
A newly-created post-high school program also caters to 18-19-year-olds and imbues them with the same Chassidic passion for learning while interspersing Shabbatonim, field trips, chesed (Kindness) projects, and guest speakers throughout the year.

"Overall," said Rabbi Shemtov, "we're here to ensure that what's learned is shared - whether in a bachur's immediate family or wherever else he has a sphere of influence."
As Rabbi Gestetner puts it, “We are interested in educating our students not only in how to learn but most importantly how to live life after they leave Mayanot”. The Mayanot students all around the globe, in leadership positions in their home communities, are proof of the success.
In addition, to the classes and making sure the needs of our students and alumni are met, Mayanot runs reunions from time to time and has a growing community in Crown Heights, where Rabbi Avramol Silver runs the Mayanot Shul. Rabbi Moishe Silver, the alumni coordinator in the USA, works with many Mayanot alumni to assist them in any way they feel is helpful for their transition after Yeshiva. 

Mayanot provides these same tools for women at their seminary in Katamon, which started in 2008. The goal of the Women’s Program is to provide women from all backgrounds with the ability to tackle any of the books in the extensive Jewish library. From Chumash to Talmud to halacha, the women are encouraged to go to the source to find answers to their questions, instead of being given answers, they have to dive in themselves.
Mrs. Rivka Marga Gestetner said “When women learn ‘as they are’, the Torah they learn really becomes part of them, and not some costume that comes off when they leave Mayanot.” Its an authentic environment and students understand they can be authentic with their journeys, as well. 

"Our emphasis is on experiential learning," explains Rabbi Shemtov. He believes this to be the most all-encompassing approach to reintroducing alienated Jews back to their roots. Said Rabbi Wichnin: "The goal is to ensure that students, here at Mayanot, learn to think on their own."
As part of an informal group discussion, senior staff described scenarios whereby students often want to be told what to do in a given situation. Rather than to offer advice, students are encouraged to utilize their own internal resources - based on learned texts - to identify the best course of action. Students have also forged a very strong and powerful connection with the Rebbe, his teachings of leadership and Torah concepts.  At the Gimmel Tammuz Shabbos, at the Ohel, the Mayanot table is a big attraction for people who want to be a part of an authentic Chasidic Farbrengen, in English.
Rabbi Chaim Moss, the educational director of the Men’s Yeshiva program, spoke about the systematic approach to education in which every student can evaluate where he is holding and most importantly where he is moving toward and how he is growing.
Rabbi Boruch Kaplan, senior lecturer in Talmud and Chassidut, said that the inspirational and in-depth system of teaching Torah and specifically Gemara which Mayanot has developed is used worldwide. In fact, newly-created online courses will enable anyone in the world to participate.
Rabbi Elchanan Cohen described how the students, when entering his classroom, sometimes go as far as taking on the role of Rashi and Tosfos when discussing with each other the different positions. “They aren't just ideas on a page but they become alive within the students”.
Below are recent testimonials of current students:
Greg Haft, originally from Plainsville, NY, described how he grew up disenchanted with the Reform movement. But by the time he was in college at Arizona State University, he thought it worthwhile to check out the local Jewish campus community.
Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, director of Chabad at at ASU, invited him for a Shabbat. At around the same time, he heard from six of his best friends that they'd been on a great Birthright trip in Israel called Mayanot that was staffed by the coolest Rabbi. Greg introduced himself to Rabbi Teichtel saying he is from the Long Island area in NY. Rabbi Teichtel responded, “Oh I know some people from Long Island” and after a few minutes Greg realized that he just met his best friends favorite Rabbi from Birthright Israel.
Greg decided it was time to reconsider another trip to Israel. The first one, a secular Birthright program for 10 days, was a good beginning but it didn't 'click’. Now in Aug. 2017, equipped with Rabbi Tiechtel's hospitality and a curiosity about what awaited him at Mayanot, he couldn't believe his good fortune upon arriving. "I finally felt a sense of belonging," he sighed in relief. The many scholarships available have really made it easier for students to attend. 
Chabad On Campus has partnered with Mayanot in providing many options for students who want to join whether for short or long term learning. Tiferes Menachem is a more recent scholarship option.
(Meir Hayoun, Current Mayanot Student)
Meir Hayoun, 18, was born and raised in Strasborg, France. Unsure about next steps after his father's passing, he decided to take up his older brother's offer to join him in Montreal. While there, he began spending Shabbatot with local families. Soon thereafter, Meir connected with Rabbi Ariel Stern of Westmount Chabad and Rabbi Shmuely Weiss, Co-Director at the Rohr Chabad House of Montreal. Rabbi Weiss encouraged Meir to attend Mayanot and with a scholarship from Tiferes Menachem, the dream became a reality.

As part of an ongoing dream to achieve a larger presence in Israel’s capital, Mayanot is currently in the process of building a $20 million, five-story complex facing many of Jerusalem’s major attractions, adjacent to Gan Soccer and close to the Machane Yehuda market. This 3500-meter facility – consisting of a penthouse overseeing greater Jerusalem - will serve as a visiting center and focal point for students, families, and dignitaries.
Rabbi Gestetner shared, that one of the greatest feelings of Nachas is the moral and financial support that the Mayanot alumni express at every opportunity.
In closing, Rabbi Shemtov confided with a warm smile that the Mayanot “family” has been a driving force behind over 100 weddings that have been held between many alumni, over the past decade, and we hope that won’t slow down anytime soon.
Mayanot …. what could be a better way to connect with family away from home?
(From left: current students Ruben Mizrahi and Greg Haft 
doing Mivtzo'im in the Machane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem.)