Alumni Spotlight: An 8 Part Series with Joshua Zimmerman

It took Joshua Zimmerman till he got to college to see how stunted his Jewish education had been up until that moment. “That’s when I began to see that, if you stopped your learning at your bar mitzvah, you go through the rest of your life with barely a seventh grade Jewish education,” said Joshua. “If you were an engineer, how could you do your job with barely a seventh grade education? Sorry but you couldn’t.”

Since he figured he wouldn’t have adequate knowledge to be able to accept or reject something he didn’t understand, Joshua knew he needed to learn more about his own religion. Fortunately, at the University of Central Florida he encountered a rabbi named Chaim Boruch Lipskier, who had a profound impact on him, inspiring in him the desire to become more observant and wear a kippa every day. More than four years ago he became Shomer Shabbat and, when he finished his degree in archaeology and film three years ago, he began seriously considering a yeshiva experience in Israel, something that would take his learning even deeper.

“It was another culture at Mayanot,” Joshua said who was 23 at the time. “Mayanot is a bit like Hogwarts (the academy featured in the Harry Potter novels). The same way wizards in Hogwarts are learning wizardry, we as Jews are learning Jewry. We’re learning how to become our best selves.”

One example of the “best self” is from his Jewish Ethics class where he learned that, in marriage you don’t marry a person but the other half of your soul, “that it’s up to each of us to find a person who can help each of us become a better person.”

Joshua’s favorite classes were, Jewish history, certainly and of course Talmud. “Talmud is the basis of what it means to be a bachur, a student.” Calling the learning at Mayanot “absolutely amazing,” he added with a sigh that “I really don’t want to go back yet. I see this as my last real chance to have the taste of yeshiva, to really grow Jewishly in such an incredible environment.” Joshua is determined to put his training in film and new Jewish learning together, with a project he calls “Endless Shabbat,” documenting Chabad Emissaries hard at work all over the globe.” It’s going to highlight how a Jew can go anywhere in the world, and because of the vision of the Rebbe, find a home.”