@OHR

For the week ending 16 January 2016 / 6 Shevat 5776

Austin Green

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Age: 34

Manhattan, NY
Columbia University, BA in Liberal Arts

One could not reasonably predict that a young boy growing up in the affluent and secular Upper West Side of Manhattan would one day become a religious Jew. In fact, the odds are quite long against it. Add to that a private-school education at the Collegiate School of Manhattan — the oldest private boys’ school in the United States (founded by the Dutch West India Company in 1628), and the odds are longer still. But that’s not even the half of it. Austin Green’s mom is a well-known and extremely accomplished photographer, photojournalist and photography professor. She is an artist and belongs to the New York art scene – not exactly a bastion of religious Jewry. After completing his private-school education, Austin entered and graduated from Columbia University in New York. His path to the upper echelons of a secular American society was a paved fast lane. He entered into the field of finance and worked for various banks in New York City, including RBS and Morgan Stanley. He wrote credit policy and was a mortgage underwriter.

While in college he had his first exposure to Yiddishkeit. “I was given a taste of Torah almost a decade ago when I attended the Aish Essentials program for a summer, but knew it was not enough. After I finished college I wanted to return to complete at least a year of yeshiva, but like many of us I mistakenly allowed life to make other plans. After almost a decade of great success in the world of finance I came to Ohr Somayach to deepen my knowledge of Torah and learn the practical applications necessary to lead a fully mitzvah-observant life. The reason I left a fantastic career was because I realized that the constant striving for material success that infuses everything American was making my life, and all that comes with it, a lot worse. The more money I made, the nicer car I drove, and the older I became, the less intrinsically happy I was. I knew deep down that all of it wouldn't matter in the end anyway, and that wasn't at all what life was really supposed to be about. There was no question that what I really needed was to fast track myself with Torah, and only then would I be able to make the right decisions and live the life we are meant to lead. Only after doing so would I find the happiness in a job, wife and children that I had sought during all the years I let other things come between myself and Hashem.

“For a ba’al teshuvah who realizes the truth of Hashem, the immeasurable gifts He has given us, and the ways to further the deepest connection via study of the Oral Tradition, there is hardly a better place than Ohr Somayach. The Rabbis teaching us are of a caliber one would expect at a world-renowned university; in fact several of the teachers are former graduate-level professors. As someone who can finally appreciate the importance and privilege of learning, it is phenomenal that one can find such a quality Torah education. There is no other place in the world where it is easier for an intelligent ba’al teshuvah to find his way. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to learn here as it is paving the way for a newly cemented life that I have been hoping for the majority of my adult years. After sitting on the “sidelines” for so long I am finally on my way to realizing my place in the world to come, and there is literally no better gift than that. Thank you Ohr Somayach!"

Austin came to Ohr Somayach’s Mechina program in December and he is already making rapid progress. He is again on the fast track — the fast track to a life of Torah, mitzvot and meaning. We expect great things from Austin and welcome him into the Ohr Somayach family.

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