Months before opening its doors to welcome its charter class last September, Midreshet Torat Chessed had already generated a great deal of interest. Located in Netanya, the seminary is partnered with the renowned Emunah Bet Elazraki Children’s Home, one of Emunah’s five children’s homes in Israel.
Midreshet Torat Chessed affords students a multifaceted yearlong experience. Following a morning immersed in Torah study, each student works with a group of children to whom they have been assigned for the entire year. Under the guidance and tutelage of trained social workers, the students greet these children every day after school, help them with their homework, and serve as warm and positive role models, enriching the youngsters’ lives by being a source of succor and support.
For the MTC students, the experience is equally rewarding. Additionally, students work in tandem with young Israeli women volunteers their age, who are fulfilling their year of Sheirut Leumi, National Service. Through this unique partnership, the students are afforded the opportunity to learn firsthand about the State of Israel from their Israeli peers.
Emunah Bet Elazraki Children’s Home was founded in 1969 to help children in great distress. Currently, 240 children from all over Israel call Bet Elazraki their home, because their parents lack the capability to care for them, due to problems with violence in the family, drugs, alcohol, abuse, mental illness, abandonment, or a combination thereof.
Bet Elazraki supports and protects its children and offers them warmth, love, and therapeutic treatment–as well as scholastic, educational, and social enrichment–under the superb professional leadership of Director Yehuda Kohn. Its mission is to ensure that these children realize their full potential and go on to raise their children in loving homes of their own.
In an interview with the 5TJT, Rabbi Yossi Goldin, the seminary’s menahel, provides an in-depth perspective of this unique seminary.
RMM: What is Midreshet Torat Chessed’s aim?
YG: The aim of Midreshet Torat Chessed is to give our students a multifaceted and integrated experience; to enable our students to grow through learning and grow through giving. We believe that a combination of Torah learning and extensive daily chessed is a powerful experience, whereby each aspect enhances the other. Spending their mornings and evenings learning Torah provides a context for the chessed work that our students do, helping them grow as people and as Jews, so that when they give of themselves to the children, they are giving over something more powerful and meaningful. And vice-versa–recognizing the power of giving and how much of an impact they can have on another person’s life transforms the entire midrashah experience, changing the way they look at themselves and the world around them, and enriching the learning and self-exploration that they do throughout the year.
RMM: What are some of the outstanding attributes of MTC’s faculty?
YG: MTC has an unbelievably talented and dedicated staff. Our assistant director, Mrs. Shira Melamed, had previously worked at Machon Maayan as eim bayit and director of student activities for five years, and she brings with her a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge about the “seminary” scene. Our mashgichah ruchanit, Mrs. Toby Einhorn, has been a Jewish educator for over 20 years, and her insight and experience are invaluable to our program.
We pride ourselves on the fact that our teachers are very diverse–a mix of men and women, older and younger, and from a range of hashkafic backgrounds. In this way, our students are exposed to, and learn from, a wide range of personalities and teaching styles, enriching their learning experience.
Shira Melamed, a certified MSW, oversees the afternoon work with the children, guiding the students in their work and meeting with them as a group weekly to discuss the work with the children, and give them the skills to do the work well. In this way, our students are not simply “doing chessed,” but rather, they are “growing through the chessed.”
RMM: What are some of the key advantages of partnering with Emunah Bet Elazraki?
RYG: One of the unique aspects of our program is the fact that we are fully integrated into the children’s home. Our students live right next to the home and eat all their meals there. All the Torah learning is done on Bet Elazraki’s campus and our students take part in all that goes on in the home. This integration benefits both the children in Bet Elazraki and our students as well. Having an onsite campus changes the entire atmosphere of the home; their campus is not simply a children’s home, but a thriving campus that is full of life.
Partnering with Bet Elazraki helps our students experience the thrill of giving, and the amazing impact that they can have on a child’s life. The greatest gift that anyone can give to another is of themselves–and being able to give of oneself to a child is a uniquely powerful experience.
RMM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being menahel of Midreshet Torat Chessed?
YG: The most rewarding thing about being menahel of this seminary is to witness growth on so many different levels and in so many different areas; to see our young women developing in their connection to Judaism and to Eretz Yisrael, while also growing as givers through the very special relationships that they form with the children of Bet Elazraki.
RMM: What plans do you envision for Midreshet Torat Chessed in the coming academic year?
YG: For next year, we hope to get to 15-20 students, and to develop in our ability to integrate the Torah learning and chessed. Our program is small by design–because we want to ensure that each of our students feels a part of the home and is “needed”–and having too many students would dilute what each student could give. In addition, we want to give our students the personal attention needed to develop and grow as people and as Jews.
However, one of the beautiful aspects of being part of Bet Elazraki is that we have the best of both worlds–on the one hand, our midrashah has the advantages of being a “small” program, with the individual attention during the classes and the learning, as well as the “homey” atmosphere. On the other hand, there are 50 Israeli Bnot Sheirut who work in Bet Elazraki as well–and in the afternoons, our students work hand in hand with them. In this way, socially, our program does not feel small; there are many girls to befriend.
RMM: What message would you like to convey to prospective students and parents?
YG: The message we would like to convey is the power of combining growing and giving; of learning Torah and living Torah. In Pirkei Avot, the sage Hillel profoundly declares, “If I am not for myself, then who is for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I?” Our priority as human beings is to understand why Gâ€‘d created us and what our job is on this earth–because if we don’t fulfill our purpose, if we aren’t for ourselves, then no one else can or will. However, Hillel continues and adds that if all we do is just for ourselves, if we are only self-focused, then what have we become as people and as Jews?
Judaism is about the balance of developing ourselves as people and Jews, and then sharing who we have become with the people around us. It is sometimes hard to strike that balance, but crucial, nonetheless. At MTC, we help our girls develop in these two crucial areas, and to integrate the two into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
To download an application, visit toratchessed.com. E-mail Rabbi Goldin at Yossigoldin@gmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. v
Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times.