July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Jack Stepner Has Tremendous Year At Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah

Jack Stepner is studying at Bnei Akiva’s Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah-Chovat Hatalmidim in Jerusalem. He grew up in Teaneck and attended Frisch School for high school. In the summers he attended Camp Morasha.

His next stop? Yeshiva University, though Jack is focusing on this year for now.

  • Why did you choose to study at TVA?

When exploring yeshiva options, I met Rav Yair Halevi and, without sounding cheesy, it was like love at first sight. I was planning on meeting him for five minutes, but it ended up lasting for almost two hours. When he was telling me about the yeshiva’s schedule, what really stood out to me was the early wake-up on Mondays and Wednesdays to get the most out of the day. He also explained to me how at TVA/Chovat Gemara is taught in a way that works with students’ skills. With a personal passion for basketball, Rav Yair explained to me that “your whole life you’ve been taught Gemara like a PG; you can also learn as a PF!” That line stuck with me, and this is why I believed TVA/Chovat was the perfect choice for me.

  • What kind of goals do you have for the year?

Going into the year my goals were simple: to have a good time, hang with friends, eat good food, play basketball, and improve in Gemara. However, after spending more than half a year here, I have come to realize that, yes, everyone needs their “fun,” but for how long?

I remember one evening, as I was leaving the beit midrash to go back to the apartments, Rav Yair asked me, “Why are you leaving? This is your home.” I thought about it for a moment and it made sense. The next three days I slept in the beit midrash with a couple other students. This just shows the type of lifestyle and environment we have been able to foster here. All of my goals have changed since I initially stepped foot into the yeshiva, and I’m only trending upward.

  • What have been some of the highlights of your year so far?

The highlights of my year so far have definitely been tiyulim. These types of trips really unify the group, are truly meaningful, and I know will remain everlasting memories. Our tiyulim are more than just a fun hike or adventure; they connect us to the land, the history of our nation, and the Jewish people!

  • What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

My biggest difficulty is definitely being away from my family. I’m very much a family man; however, TVA has done an excellent job of building a family-like culture, so I never really feel alone. Because of the intimate size of the program and the ability to connect with all the faculty one-on-one, I’ve never felt like I was getting lost in a sea of students.

  • How has your year been different from your expectations?

I felt well-prepared going into this year because of my Israel guidance back in Frisch. Additionally, the yeshiva was very transparent about the program, structure and style before I came, so there were not many surprises. Although I’ve had some ups and downs, the support of the staff and understanding that it’s a process gives me clarity and confidence.

  • Where is your favorite place to go for weekends/Shabbat so far?

My favorite place to go to for the weekends is my best friend who lives in Ra’anana. His family moved from America to Israel back when we were in third grade. We’ve been keeping in touch since, and it’s special that I’m living in the same country as him for the year.

  • Who is a teacher at TVA you connect to especially well?

In all honesty, I connect to all the teachers in yeshiva; they all bring something different to the table and that’s part of why I was drawn to the program. Being in a yeshiva that provides one-on-one sessions has been key for me and my personal growth.

  • Which is one of your favorite classes at TVA?

Aside from all of the incredible learning, one of my favorite unique classes is Improv. Improv is every Monday evening. It’s a time where I let out my emotions and work on public speaking. It’s a skill that I find has helped in all aspects of my life, from my learning, community involvement, as well as professional development; it is an essential tool for my future. It’s one of the many life tools TVA trains us with, in addition to practical internships and many leadership training opportunities throughout the year. At TVA we focus not only on the now, but also on the future.

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