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For the week ending 3 September 2016 / 30 Av 5776

A Summer of Groups at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

The Jerusalem Campus of Ohr Somayach was a beehive of activity this summer. We were hosts to the largest number of summer students and programs in our history. Our reputation as perhaps the premier Jewish educational center has spread across the planet, attracting students from such far-away places as New Zealand, Kazakhstan and Cameroon. Outreach programs and outreach rabbis on all inhabited continents are sending their interested young Jewish students to Ohr Somayach for a few weeks of learning in the Holy City of Jerusalem. We are fortunate to merit seeing a fulfillment of what the Prophet Amos predicted thousands of years ago:“Behold, days are coming, says the L-rd, G-d, and I will send famine into the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but to hear the word of the L-rd.” (Amos 8:11)

The following is a short description of the various programs that were here this summer:

  1. JLE South Africa: Founded over 20 years ago in Johannesburg by a small cadre of alumni from Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem, it has become the largest kiruv organization in that country, with a yeshiva, various synagogues and learning centers in the Johannesburg area, as well as in Capetown. Their Israel trip, called “Ohrsom”, brought more than 190 students here in June. Of those, 90 young men came to our campus to learn Torah. Included in this group were 15 students from our Ohr Somayach program in Sydney, Australia, headed by Rabbi David Blackman. They heard classes from Rabbis Breitowitz, Segal, Ullman, Shlomo Schiller, and Dr. Matalon. While here, the Mentor’s Mission, led by Danny Lemberg, Yaakov Kaplan, Zecharia Fruchthandler and George Karasick, came to Ohr Somayach to learn and bond with the students. The Ohrsom students were able to learn one-on-one with successful businessmen and professionals to whom Torah and mitzvot come first, and then the obligation of making a living in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch. Danny Lemberg and Zecharia Fruchthandler lectured the group on the nexus of religion and the world of business.
  1. JLE North America: A group of nine students came for two weeks from June 23 to July 5th. They had a full learning program from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The group heard lectures from Rabbis Breitowitz and Greenblatt on such topics as Jewish philosophy, personal development and Jewish values. There were also small focus groups and tutorials. This group also interacted with the Mentor’s Mission. The afternoons were for touring and activities. The trips included a three day excursion to the North, kayaking, ATVing, hiking, Hebron, Gush Emunim, Kever Rachel, the Old City of Jerusalem, the City of David, paintball fights, Segway riding, and beaches. In follow-up surveys, 100% of the young men thought that it was an excellent experience and would recommend it to a friend. By the end of the program every one of them committed to take on himself some additional level of mitzvah observance.
  2. JLE Connect: This is a program tailored to young men who are a bit more advanced than the JLE group. Another name for this program is “A Taste of Yeshiva”, as the participants are learning the whole day. In the mornings they were occupied with gemara, and in the afternoons they learned gemara and heard philosophy lectures from Rabbis Gottlieb and Matalon. There were also occasional trips. A total of nine were on this program, and they ratcheted up their observance to a higher level. We hope to see them “next year in Jerusalem” for a full year program here in yeshiva.
  3. Jinterns: This innovative program matches up guys who are interested in furthering their careers and burnishing their resumés by doing internships in their fields of interest. For the first three weeks of their stay in Israel they learn about Judaism in our Mechina program, and go on tours with the JLE and Mentor’s Mission. The program began on June 22 and ended on Tisha b’Av. Some of the participants came early and spent a couple of weeks learning before the program began. Some have decided to stay in the yeshiva past the end date, for additional learning. Most are in college or graduate school, and will be returning to their home countries before the end of August. Because of the nature of the Jinterns program, they visited sites that are off the beaten track of most summer programs. In addition to the trips and activities mentioned above, they were introduced to Israeli businesses and government venues, such as City Hall Jerusalem, where they met with Deputy Mayor Yitzchak Pindrus, the son of senior staff member, Rabbi Moshe Pindrus; the offices of “app” start-up “Glide”; an Orthodox law firm; JVP — a large venture capital partnership, among others. The interns have landed jobs in medical research, biotech, finance, venture capital, law, engineering and computer programming. There are 18 young men in the program.
  4. Project Genesis:The JLE in London, under the very capable leadership of Rabbi Danny Kirsch, sent 32 university students for a learning-and-touring program this summer. Rabbi Moshe Borger, who is both a rabbi in Derech and the coordinator for the English JLE students in Israel, taught classes in “Jewish Thought”, along with other staff members. We also hosted a group of five other British students who came here for two weeks in order to strengthen their commitment to Torah and mitzvot.
  5. Mercaz: From May 18th to the first of June we hosted a group 44 students from the US. Most were from the University of Texas and the University of Missouri. They learned Torah half-day with Rabbis Ullman, Segal, Matalon and Shlomo Wiener. Touring occupied their afternoons. Trips included: The City of David, Hebron, the Blind Museum, the Old City of Jerusalem, Tsefat, the Dead Sea, Yad Vashem, the Tunnel tours adjoining the Kotel Plaza and the Bar Kochba Caves.

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