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]