Eric Maurer will tell you that two summers ago, was one of the most intense experiences of his 24 years. Arriving in Israel with a freshly minted degree in Jewish studies from the University of Hartford and his then fiancé Rebecca Bader (whose adventures in Mayanot’s women’s program you can read about here), “I didn’t really know what to expect.”
Raised in what he calls “an active Reform family,” Eric got interested early on in what was going on in both the Hillel and Chabad associated with his campus. “But when I got to the first Shabbat at Hillel and couldn’t follow the service, I realized how very much I had to learn.” It was at Chabad that Eric found a warm and welcoming community with Rabbi Yossi Kulek and his family and it was there that he was able to begin to learn in earnest. “I knew from the start that I needed to come and learn in Israel,” he says. And when an online course he took qualified him for a scholarship, the dream quickly became a reality. And the Chabad rabbi was certain: Mayanot, with two programs especially designed for women and for men, was just the place for both of them. “He told us, ‘You two need to go to Mayanot!’”
Though at least their immediate future had already been somewhat plotted out for them -- graduate school for him in Jewish communal service at the Hornstein program at Brandeis University and a job for her at a Boston-area preschool, and a wedding within the year – other aspects of their future lives together have been shifting with the learning they’ve both been enjoying in their Mayanot programs. “It’s been both exciting and life-changing,” Eric says.
For one thing, he’s learning in new ways he’s never learned before. “This is my first experience of Gemara,” he says. “And it’s like a muscle in my brain that I’ve never used before. Now I know what it is I need to study because I know I want to take what I’ve learned here and keep learning, no matter where I am.”
It’s an expanded world view that this couple can now share for the rest of their lives. “Both of us are growing a lot in the program,” says Eric. “We know that we have a lot to talk about when we get back, to sort of integrate what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown into the lives we want to live and how we want to raise our family.” For one thing, he says, “Now we can both see that if you are going to have a family you have to have a strong background to share with your children. That’s why it’s been so important for us to have this opportunity to learn at Maynot, for both of us to grow into this together.”