Like “Iron-Man” to a Magnet
Rabbi Larry Shain
Beit Midrash Alumnus
Rabbi Larry Shain is an Ohr Somayach alumnus from the late 1970's who maintained his ties to Ohr Somayach and helped build the Ohr Somayach network of outreach programs in his native South Africa. He grew up in the coastal town of Durban, South Africa and was active in a Jewish youth movement throughout high school which provided him with an important sense of familiarity with Judaism.
He spent one of his high school years as an exchange student in the US. Because he was disconnected from Judaism during that year, he decided to reconnect by visiting Israel on his way “home” to South Africa. He accepted an offer to simply “eat and sleep” at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem and, as they say, the rest is history. After several years in Yeshiva and two years in kollel in Zichron Yaakov, he returned to South Africa in 1984 and spent the next 30 years helping to build Ohr Somayach into a vibrant educational force there.
He recently returned to Israel and is currently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he has started a small yeshiva which combines learning and vocational training. When he moved from Jerusalem to Zichron Yaakov to begin his stay in kollel, he had an experience which helped to serve as the magnet to draw him back to Israel after his many years in South Africa.
He arrived at the old train station in Jerusalem, burdened by numerous suitcases (and two black hats on his head to keep a hand free) on a hot day only to be told that there were no trains due to a strike. He started ranting in English about everything Israeli as the cab drove him back to Bayit Vegan. The bare-headed, non-observant cab driver got the gist of his rant and calmed him down, "This is also for the best. Who knows what G-d has in mind for you? He knows better than you, so don't be upset." As Larry puts it, "We were all soon laughing — only in Israel not only does your non-observant co-religionist calm you with 'divrei mussar', but he doesn't see any irony in it at all and offers the words innocently and sincerely."
That's when he knew that he could never leave for good.