Beyond the Classroom

Observations from Tzion

Observations from Tzion

The Berman Hebrew Academy community is extremely grateful to the 2016-17 Torah Mitzion Kollel members for enriching our lives, nourishing our souls, and bringing us closer to Eretz Yisrael, Medinat Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael.  Now that they are moving on to the next stage of their journey, we asked them to share some meaningful reflections about their time at Berman. Here are their thoughts in their own words.



ENCOUNTER AND CONNECTION - Nechama Porat

While packing, going through our stuff, and organizing our lives for our return back home, my thoughts keep coming back to where we were three years ago, in our house in Bat Ayin, guessing, wondering, but not really knowing anything about life here in America, at the Berman Hebrew Academy, and in this community. We did know one thing: we knew that this community has a strong connection to Israel.  Many members of the community make aliyah, spend their gap year in Israel, and support Israel in so many other ways. But one question remained on my mind: What is the significance of us coming all the way from Israel? There are many talented Judaic teachers already in the Greater Washington area, and we are not Hebrew teachers. Is it worth all the effort and financial and logistical challenges to bring a family from Israel?

After this experience, I think I have an answer for that question.

A very long time ago, in the time of the great Talmudic academies in Bavel (Babylon) and Israel, there lived a few special people called the nechutei (descenders), people who would travel between Israel and Bavel, bringing with them the Torah of Eretz Israel, the teachings of Rabbi Yochanan, Reish Lakish, Rav Ami, and so many more rabbis of Israel. Though there are notable differences between the Jerusalem Talmud (which was composed in Israel) and the Babylonian Talmud, the differences could have been much more vast without these few nechutei bringing the Torah of Eretz Israel into the yeshivot in Bavel.

As a Jewish people, we have been spread throughout the world in different countries, sometimes having opposing alliances, sometimes unaware even of other communities’ existences.  We have come to live at a time when technology not only enables stronger connections and knowledge, but a thriving center in the State of Israel to which all Jews can connect. This unifies Jews in a way that is incredibly strong and powerful.

So when I look at the journey we have made, I am reminded of the nechutei making these connections between Israel and the Diaspora, bringing the latest development of the Torah studied and lived in Israel. We had the privilege of being that active connection between the communities.

Each and every one of you who spends time in Israel, whether on a gap year or for a shorter period of time, becomes one of these nechutei as well.  You will help to bridge the gaps, bringing us all closer and more united to our center and homeland, Israel.

This has been an incredible journey. Thank you for opening your hearts and homes to us and for your incredible hospitality and warmth.

We will miss you and hope to see you soon in Israel!

ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY - Menachem Porat

On April 30, 2014, a typical Israeli family got an email from a head of school in the US saying: “I would love to be able to speak with you as soon as possible to discuss our school, our position, and our community.” After the initial shock, figuring out what Berman is, and where Maryland is on the map, that family, a week later, decided to leave their beloved home, pack up their kids, and go on a journey that was full of unknowns.

Three years later, that family is packing their bags once more and completing that part of their journey.  So much happened in those three years that it could fill an entire book, but in just a few words I want to tell you how happy and grateful that family-- my family-- is for making that decision.

Bonding, connecting, and getting to know so many special individuals and discovering this warm and welcoming community made me a more connected Jew and a better עובד השם.

Thank you all for what you have done to help us succeed in so many ways. We wouldn’t be able to do it without the community helping, supporting, loving, and caring for us. It means so much to us.

The first part of our shlichut is about to end, but the connections we formed here never will. We are looking forward to staying in touch, and seeing you in Israel whenever each of you comes for a visit.

SHLICHOT EXPERIENCE - Shir Abramovitch

If you open a dictionary and look for the word “shaliach,” you will find that the definition of the word is a person who does deliveries, passing along a package or merchandise.

As a shlicha, I packed a huge suitcase and put inside a precious package that I wanted to pass on to anyone who was interested.  It was a package containing all my love for the land of Israel.

I arrived with my package to a wonderful community, a community always updated on the latest news from Israel, visiting and traveling the land, and one that knows much better than I do where to buy the best schwarma in all of Jerusalem.

And suddenly, I realize that I am actually a mailbox.  I am a mailbox receiving the same package, but so much bigger.

I have always loved Israel; it is my home. But after spending a year 6,000 miles away from Israel, I learned that it is so much more. You have shown me that even without a home or a family close by, each of us belongs in Israel, and only in Israel can we thrive and be happy and unified.  Israel is part of us, and a part of our history that we won’t stop longing for.

At 6,000 miles away I came to love Israel more than ever, because it is so much more than just home.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Israeli team - our mishlachat that was like a family to me this year.  I would also like to thank the Siesser family, who took care of us and hosted us wonderfully!  FInally, thank you to the entire community for an amazing year, for your kindness, hachnasat orchim (hospitality), and for giving me a feeling of home.

LIFE OF SHLICHUT - Itzchak Nimrodi

What does it mean to me to be a Shaliach? 

~To be a Shaliach is a tremendous privilege.

~To be a Shaliach is to discover diverse characteristics within.

~To be a Shaliach is to take responsibility.

~To be a Shaliach is to always be prepared to talk about Zionism.

~To be a Shaliach is to always be prepared with divrei Torah.

~To be a Shaliach is to stop and say shalom even in the middle of jogging.

~To be a Shaliach is to develop sensitivity to others.

~To be a Shaliach is to know how to be grateful.

~To be a Shaliach is to sharpen my values and beliefs.

~To be a Shaliach is to find out which messages I would like to pass on.

~To be a Shaliach is to be a part of a community.

~To be a Shaliach is a tremendous privilege. (Yes, I know I've already written it!)

~To be a Shaliach is to learn about hospitality (especially in this community).

~To be a Shaliach is to live in a distant and alien country, and to note that as time passes, the distance shortens and the stranger becomes the familiar friend.

~To be a Shaliach is to know how to give up privacy.

~To be a Shaliach is to know that at any given moment there is a family in the community waiting for you to come and visit.

~To be a Shaliach is to realize that the Shlichut did not begin at the moment I boarded the plane last year, but rather was formed long before as an inseparable part of who I am.

~To be a Shaliach is to be hosted every Shabbat by a different family.

~To be a Shaliach is to hope that the connections that have been forged with members of the community will continue even after departure.

~To be a Shaliach is the expectation to meet community members when they come to Israel.

~To be a Shaliach is to learn a lesson for life.

~To be a Shaliach is to fulfill a dream.

~To be a Shaliach is to know how to listen to stories and life events and to learn from them.

~To be a Shaliach is to write "My Homeland" in an article and then realize that I should have written "Our Homeland".

But mainly, for me, to be a Shaliach is to truly believe that we are in a generation of redemption and that Am Israel chai! With great appreciation to everyone who smiled, said a good word, strengthened me, gave me a feeling of home, and made my Shlichut meaningful and full of satisfaction, thank you!

I conclude with words from Rav Kook: "I wish that all humanity could be assembled in one body, that I could embrace everyone." That's how I feel as a Shaliach in this community.

CONNECTION WITH FAMILIES - Aharon Willinger

I was sitting and thinking about how to summarize the year I spent with the wonderful families in this community. How can I describe what an amazing year I’ve had here? How can I tell my friends and family in Israel about the incredible families in this community, who made it seem like I was not far from home? In every house I entered, I felt like I was home. Every family that I met, I felt like their biological son.

There is something that you cannot explain about the families here. Something almost magical.

One of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing we were told before we came here is that the distance between us and our families won’t be easy. Somehow, it wasn’t so bad (I hope my family is not reading this line). I didn’t feel far, I didn’t feel like I left home.

I know for a fact that I’m finishing this year with much more than my own biological family. My family just expanded. It’s hard to explain my thoughts but I want each family to know that from this day forward, you are my family. I’ll come visit you here, and when you come to Israel, I’ll visit you there. My home, my house, is forever open to each of the people in this community.

Thank you for an amazing year. I don’t have the words to express my pleasure at being with you.

Thank you!

TO BE A SHALIACH - Maayan Karmon

“The man is created as a Shaliach. The creation itself, the birth, carries with it necessarily the appointment of the Shlichut…” (Rav Soloveitchik)

Since Middle School, when I was in Bnei Akiva, I was inspired by this text from Rav Soloveitchick. It was always in my head, always in my thoughts.

“I want to be a Shlicha!” I thought to myself all the time. I was always looking to do big things, to be a Shlicha, but my true desire was to do my National Service abroad. There, you really are a Shaliach. Why? Just because that’s what you’re called-- “the Shaliach from Israel.”

So I went through the interviews, the sorting process, the flights, and I arrived in the Greater Washington area as a Shlicha. I came ready to give my whole self, to give up sleep, and to tell everyone about Israel. I was ready to be a Shlicha.

No one could have prepared me for what I have discovered in this past year. Every place I visited, people became my brothers, sisters, parents, and friends. I received so much more than I ever could have given. I found other “Shlichim” wherever I went, incredible people who live a life of Shlichut! I found people whose hachnasat orchim (hospitality) shines with such a bright face, that I wish I could have even half of their virtue. I found people who defend Israel at their universities from anti-Israel activists. I found people who donate to Israel, support Israel, and love Israel with all their hearts!

So this year has passed more quickly than I thought it would, but in this year I learned so much that I can take with me on my path in the future.

I would like to continue to be a Shlicha in everything I do, but from a deeper and more knowledgeable place now that I know what the real Shlichut is. The Shlichut is the small, everyday things in life-- smiling to everyone, hospitality, and loving people just because they are people.

I have learned all of this from you this year, and I want to thank you for it. Thank you for the love and appreciation that you have bestowed on us this year. Thank you for the great love of Israel, and for the wish to learn and become more learned. I’m sure this year will be foundational in my life.

We’re waiting for you in Israel! And from now on, we will be the ones providing you with Israeli hachnasat orchim!

ISRAEL - BEFORE AND AFTER SHLICHUT - Itzchak Nimrodi

In the weeks before my decision to leave Israel and go on Shlichut, I debated whether or not I should do it. Should I leave Israel for a whole year? Will I be able to retain the knowledge that the State of Israel is a central value? Would I be able to pass on this value to the students as well?

We have merited that the State of Israel is a reality today. People wake up in the morning to go to work, build homes, set up families and live their lives. However, there is always the awareness that there is something else. The State of Israel is not just any other place. Unfortunately we are constantly reminded of that by our enemies who are fighting us and who resist our existence. This makes us remember daily the importance of the land of Israel and our obligation and our right to it.

But leaving Israel, and getting to know the wonderful Berman community, has expanded my knowledge from the importance of Israel to a love of my home country. For a short time, I could step out and see the bigger picture. I was able to really sense that the State of Israel is not only a reality, but also a dream and vision of redemption. This was made possible by the students from the kindergarten, talking about Israel with shining eyes, even though they had never been there.

It was also made possible by students from the Lower School jumping up and down excitedly at the Oneg when “Israel ze Habayit Sheli” rang out through the auditorium sound system, and by the Middle School students marching proudly through the streets of New York during the Israel Day Parade. It was made possible by the Upper School students who dream of the best universities with years of learning ahead, but won’t give up on a year in Israel, and maybe even on aliyah. It was made possible by the staff at school, who are willing and happy to invest time and energy in any Zionist and Israeli program. It was made possible by a community that hugs and supports Israel at all times. In the terrific dancing on Yom Ha’atzmaut, it was evident that in their hearts lies a tremendous love of Israel.

Looking back, I feel that I made the right decision, and that this year undoubtedly revealed to me the deep connection that exists betw

een Am Israel and Eretz Israel.