Miri Birk and her husband Dovid drove five-and-a-half hours in a snowstorm to attend the Mayanot Leadership Gala. The event, which took place at the Hilton in Manhattan, on Dec 17, was a chance to reconnect with a special community of friends and teachers while supporting an organization close to their hearts, she says.
Today she is the outreach director at the Roitman Chabad Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Birk found Mayanot to be a tremendous starting point and a place she gained both the skills to study on her own, as well as a community she continues to cherish.
The program was also ultimately a stepping stone in shaping her Jewish journey, she explains, teaching her how to live a Jewish lifestyle “not just viewing it from the outside as a participant, but being a player in your own Jewish journey.”
Over cocktails and dinner, nearly 600 Mayanot alumni and supporters shared an evening of warmth and inspiration with friends, whom participants say they consider family. The Mayanot Leadership Gala honored people in the Jewish community who deeply care about the Jewish future.
Honorees included: Hart and Simona Hasten, recipients of the Legacy Award, Exigent Capital Group, Eliezer Brender, Eric Davis, Simcha Mann, recipients of the Builders of Zion Award, and Cross River recipients of the Philanthropy Award. Alumni Presentations included: Miri Birk recipients of the Jewish Leadership Award, Dr. Rabiel Amirian recipients of the Maimonides Award, and Robin Lovat recipients of the Alumni of the Year Award.
Joseph Telushkin World renown lecturer and author of over 18 bestselling books, presented the keynote address and highlighted the power of the Mayanot alumni who are the ambassadors for Am Yisroel.
Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, Mayanot’s executive director, shared, “The gala celebrated today's leaders and honored influential people in the Jewish world. In addition, highlighted Mayanot’s growth and future plans as leaders in Jewish education. Mayanot is expanding its existing programs with post Birthright Israel programming, a lone soldier center, long and short-term learning programs, workshops, seminars, shabbat rooftop experiences, and so much more.
Fayge Weinberg attended Mayanot in 2008 after graduating from Binghamton University, NY. She says Mayanot filled in the gaps for her in terms of Jewish learning. “It’s what I was looking for, an open-minded environment where I’d be able to grasp Judaism and grapple with original Hebrew texts that I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to learn growing up.”
Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, dean of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies, said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for the organization and appreciative of all of the guests, including the 100 or so who flew in from outside of New York. “That type of support energizes anyone involved in any type of educational initiative,” he explains. “We want people to understand our vision and the impact Mayanot has, and to become partners to truly make a difference for the Jewish people.”
Dr. Liana Barkan-Klein, who lives in Brooklyn studied at Mayanot in 1998 before starting medical school. She grew up secular and says she wanted to go somewhere other people were also growing in their Judaism and spirituality. “One of the most important things I received establishing a connection between what the mitzvahs are and why you’re doing them; internalizing it.”
Yisroel Litkowski, a 2006 alumnus, who flew in from Los Angeles for the gala, says the program gave him his foundation. “Today I’m 31 years old, married with three children, and I would have to say that Mayanot has had a huge impact on the trajectory of my life in terms of Jewish identity.”
Mayanot is grateful for all the support for this event and is happy to share the
To get more involved with the Mayanot World Center, click here.
To view the videos presented at the gala, click on the links below: