A burning question being asked among so many young Jewish couples is, “To continue education or to start a family?”
While a little less existential than Hamlet, the financial limitations and uncertainties at the start of a marriage often surface as a dichotomous choice: family or career. Kochvei HaShamayim, a rising nonprofit organization, believes that we may indeed have our cake, eat it, and ask the world for seconds. It is not just the best of both worlds, but the entirety of each.
This organization champions the Jewish values of family, community and education by enabling young Orthodox Jewish couples to start families sooner than they otherwise would have, or conversely, to allow young parents to pursue further education. True to its name, Kochvei HaShamayim commemorates the covenant between God and Abraham, whereby God’s special nation will be as numerous as the “stars in the sky.”
There is a way, and there is most definitely a will. Kochvei HaShamayim is launching a Community Building Fellowship (CBF) to establish a symbiotic relationship between couples and communities with nearby universities around the country. Young couples joining a community are expected to invest in their new home by, for example, offering classes; organizing social events; leading services and leining; leading shul initiatives and programs; or offering volunteer services related to the career path they are pursuing. The community would, in turn, support the young family in whatever way it can. The options are quite flexible, and examples include free or subsidized housing, daycare services, transportation or synagogue membership.
As there is no charge to sign up, many shuls across the U.S. are joining to connect, build and empower the Jewish nation, including those in Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, Nevada and Minnesota.
The CEO of this organization, Daniel Lazarev, received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Yeshiva University and began medical school at Stony Brook University in 2018. He took a leave of absence to conduct research as a computational biologist at the Broad Institute in 2020 and will begin his PhD in mathematics at MIT this fall. Most significantly, Lazarev is a proud father of two, the first of whom was born before he started medical school. His dominant motivation for founding Kochvei was personal, reflecting that this kind of initiative would have been something from which he would have immensely benefited as a newlywed student.
Lazarev has one mission: to eliminate compromise. While they say marriage is all about compromise, that which you may achieve together shouldn’t be. “We know it’s possible because there are many examples of individual couples who have done it,” Lazarev said. “Kochvei is about creating an organized support structure that would enable any willing couple to do it.”
Lazarev outlined a simple mathematical model that demonstrates the mutual benefits for both community and couple. The success index, a measure that accounts for an individual’s personal value and the value of his or her network, of every member of a community, increases fastest, on average, for a community that shares in the education costs of its newest members. This approach echoes the Talmudic Sages’ teaching that givers of tzedakah themselves become wealthy (Shabbat 119a).
Kochvei HaShamayim encourages potential couple applicants to attend an information webinar on Sunday, August 29, at 1 p.m. by visiting kochvei.org/applicant-signup. All those who register will be automatically entered into a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card or Kochvei swag.
Follow and share Kochvei HaShamayim on social media to spread the exponential good that can arise from an organization looking to advance not only our community, but generations of communities to follow, as we seek to grow me-chayil el chayil—from strength to strength.
To have your shul contacted should a young couple wish to pursue their professional education near your community, visit www.kochvei.org/community-signup.
Rachel Liebling is a rising senior at Stern College for Women.