So much has happened since our last Alumni Update that it is a major challenge to condense all the news into one letter.
Let us begin with the exciting new developments in the world of kiruv.
THE YESHIVA ENTERS THE UNIVERSITY
Thousands of Jewish students in leading universities in North America are being offered an opportunity to become familiar with their Jewish roots through friendly encounters with representatives of Yeshivat Ohr Somayach.
For several decades the Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach has brought university students to the Jerusalem campus for short summer and winter experiences of learning and touring. A significant percentage of the thousands who have participated in these programs have eventually decided to spend a year of full-time learning in the yeshiva and virtually all of them have enriched their commitment to Judaism.
The ripple effect of this and similar campus outreach programs has dramatically heightened the awareness of Jewish students on campuses throughout North America of their Jewishness. This has led to a demand for placing representatives of Ohr Somayach in communities where they will be able to meet Jewish university students.
With the help of philanthropists concerned about the future of Jewish students Ohr Somayach has succeeded in placing a number of its outstanding products and associates in communities where thousands of university students will have access to them.
Tzvi Schwartz, who gained his first experience in dealing with newcomers as a teacher in Ohr Somayach and went on to join an outreach kollel in St. Louis, is active on the campus of Washington University from where he brought a group of students to the past JLE winter program.
In Boston, Ohr Somayach graduates Michael Greene and David Winner are initiating contacts to develop programs at local universities, including Harvard, M.I.T. and Boston U.In Chicago, Ohr Somayach graduates Zev Kahn and Shalom Garfinkel of the Jewish Education Team are making students at Chicago U., Loyola and the U. of Illinois aware of Ohr Somayach programs in Israel.
In New York, Ohr Somayach graduate David Delman has joined Rabbi Adelman in doing outreach at the Stoney Brook campus.
And finally, in Toronto, Bernie Moscoff and Jonathan Jaffit are active on the campuses of Toronto U., York and Waterloo, from which a substantial number of students have participated in JLE summer and winter programs.
The fruits of some of these placements have already been seen in the quantity and quality of JLE participants and registrants for full-time learning programs at Ohr Somayach. The proliferation of campus representatives of Ohr Somayach and other institutions has created a curiosity among students on virtually every campus with a significant Jewish population about the opportunities to become more aware of Torah Judaism. It is hard to imagine that there is a Jewish university student in North America who has not learned of these opportunities either from campus outreach people or from the "satisfied customers" – friends returning from an enjoyable and enlightening experience in Israel.
As the yeshiva thus enters the university, the university campus enters the yeshiva.
SEMESTER IN JERUSALEM PROGRAM
In order to attract more university students to learning at Ohr Somayach the Yeshiva has created, in addition to its highly successful Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) Program, a new program offering college credits to students who spend a three-month semester at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem.
The campus representatives mentioned above are excited about the program's potential for recruiting students for a longer stay than the regular JLE Program which will offer the Yeshiva a greater opportunity to make a lasting impact on these young Jews.
ON THE HOME FRONT
"Yesod" is the name of the new program initiated by Ohr Somayach for high school graduates from English-speaking countries. Designed for youngsters who require a balance between Torah studies and constructive extracurricular activities, and are not suited for the intensive schedule of the highly successful Derech Program, Yesod kicked off this year with close to 20 boys chosen from a larger number of applicants.
CAMPUS expansion to accommodate the ever-growing number of students. Once you enter the yeshiva past the sign proclaiming it as the "Gloria Martin Campus" you will see the porch areas which have been enclosed in order to serve as year-round classrooms and overflow dining areas – in addition to their traditional function as Sukkos dining areas.
THE SOLET (Sephardic Outreach Leadership Training) Beis Medrish, located in the Miklat, has been renovated and is now serving the Mechina Program in addition to Rabbi Peretz's talmidim of Sephardic origin.
NEWS ABOUT ALUMNI
- More than two decades ago a brilliant young South African named Avrohom (Dennis) Connack entered Ohr Somayach and quickly moved up through the ranks. After subsequently learning with Rav Dov Schwartzman in Beis Hatalmud and Rav Shmuel Auerbach in Maalos HaTorah, he returned to Ohr Somayach as the rebbie of the top Beis Medrish shiur. He has now published his first sefer "Biurei Avrohom" on Bavo Kama in which he demonstrates the analytic method which has made his shiurim so popular.
- Mordechai (Mitch) Goodman will be joining Ohr Somayach's JLE operation in Manchester, England after completing a highly successful term of service in the Manchester area. He sent us photos of a presentation ceremony marking the completion of a two-year Jewish philosophy course based on "Derech Hashem".
- From JLE London to Ohr Somayach came Richard Jacobs to serve as the new director of Ohr Lagolah under Rabbi Moshe Lazerus.
- Alexander (Brett) Weil is still clinging to the German Ashkenazic tradition he discovered during his years in Ohr Somayach. He has organized a Shabbos minyan following that tradition in Baltimore where he now lives with his family. As a guest speaker some weeks ago he had Rabbi Nitzan Bergman, an alumnus now heading the Ohr Somayach operation in Cape Town, South Africa.
- Last but not least some of our own alumni will be joining other successful businessmen in the third Mentors' Mission scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem on January 1, 2008.