July 15, 2024
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‘Goldschmidts’ Shul’ Welcomes Rabbi Menachem Bombach

For Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt and his wife, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, the last two months have been a whirlwind. Following their departure from Park East Synagogue, the Goldschmidts have put their energy into creating a space for community members of all backgrounds to engage in Torah learning. Part of that vision is the creation of a dynamic scholars-in-residence program, where the couple and their nearly 200 minyan attendees have already welcomed several Jewish thought leaders to the Upper East Side. And this past weekend was no exception, thanks to a special visit from Rabbi Menachem Bombach as their first advertised scholar-in-residence. Rabbi Bombach is a powerhouse advocate for Haredi education in Israel. He first met Avital when she was features editor at The Forward.

On Shabbat morning, December 18, Rabbi Bombach delivered a keynote speech to attendees of the Goldschmidts’ shul about the importance of creating a diversified educational system which includes the Haredi world, as well as the beauty that the Haredi community offers its Jewish brethren. “I really believe that Am Yisrael needs to be united,” Rabbi Bombach shared with The Jewish Link. “Everyone can inspire one another.”

Rabbi Bombach explained that although his speech was short, he was able to share his message with the community by taking the time to sit with individual attendees. “I got to share more about the changes I want to make. If we don’t make these changes, Israel will fall apart … it would be a tragedy.”

The change that Rabbi Bombach is referring to is a fundamental shift in the Israeli educational system: His vision is to create a society where Haredi children can receive a robust education and pursue any career they want. And he’s taken no time in chasing that vision, since the establishment of his yeshiva, HaMidrasha HaChassidit, which serves as a model Haredi school that provides a comprehensive general studies program.

As the yeshiva expanded, so did Rabbi Bombach’s goals. He then created a network of similar yeshiva programs under the umbrella “Netzach,” which boasts a total of 1,400 students in its 10 schools. With the outbreak of COVID-19, he added another program to his repertoire: the first virtual school for Haredi children. The virtual school, under the name “Eshkalot,” began with five students in 2020, but now has over 10,000 students enrolled just over a year later.

“Each dollar that is invested in these programs can produce millions,” Rabbi Bombach said. “It’s about strengthening Israel, about strengthening our community, about creating solidarity. We are creating a new reality, and I am always looking for people to invest in that.”

Similarly, the Goldschmidts’ vision, as Chizhik-Goldschmidt explained, overlaps significantly with that of Rabbi Bombach—of course, in a different context—as they create a space where community members of all walks of life can come in and receive an unparalleled Torah learning experience. “We want to build an Orthodox community where anyone can walk in and feel really welcome,” she told The Jewish Link. “The dream is to create a space where a Haredi Jew can walk in and feel comfortable, and a secular Russian Jew who has never been to shul before can walk in and feel comfortable too.”

Chizhik-Goldschmidt shared that bringing in a charismatic scholar like Rabbi Bombach “is part of a much larger vision of bringing Jewish thinkers together and giving them a platform.” She continued that both she and her husband have noticed that the Upper East Side community has become somewhat “fatigued” with the typical lineup of speakers, and is looking for new things to be said. “We’re trying to keep it interesting and think innovatively about Jewish ideas.”

Overall, attendees were “very inspired” by Rabbi Bombach. And the inspiration was two-fold, Chizhik-Goldschmidt said. “For people who don’t have very much to do with the frum community, and especially the Haredi community, hearing from Rabbi Bombach was a good entry point. And the people who do have more experience with the Haredi community are grappling with the same questions that Rabbi Bombach is grappling with.”

Rabbi Bombach noted a similar reaction from members of the Goldschmidts’ shul. “Many shared that there are similar struggles in the United States, and they have empathy for what we go through [in Israel],” he said.

By the end of Shabbat with the Goldschmidts, Rabbi Bombach had received the full Upper East Side experience, which he described as “lovely.” He said that he was particularly moved by the people, many of whom have little connection to the Orthodox community otherwise.

“They’re not just there because they like the davening, or just because they like Rabbi Goldschmidt; they’re there because they get to see the new generations become inspired, too. It gives them a glimmer of hope.”

By Channa Fischer

 

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