July 19, 2024
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James Forman Explores New Interests at Bar Ilan Israel XP

James plays football with friends from yeshiva.

James Forman grew up attending Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood with his family. He attended Yeshivat Frisch for high school before deciding to continue his education at Israel XP at Bar Ilan University for his gap year. When the year ends, he will attend the University of Michigan.

Why were you drawn to Bar Ilan Israel XP and what makes it different from all the other programs you considered?

Bar Ilan Israel XP is a very low-pressure program, which definitely appealed to me. I really like that I am able to grow on my own without feeling forced. I need to have that freedom. No one is going to be forcing me to attend everything, but I attend everything regardless. I do it on my own and am motivated on my own. I also get a chance to live on my own, as we have two to a dorm.

How do you think Bar Ilan Israel XP fits your personality and your own philosophical outlook?

Everyone here is super outgoing, loving and great to be around. The staff are all great and I feel like I made a personal connection with all of them, which didn’t always happen in high school. The student environment is one where we are all pushing everyone else to grow, in every way. One example is that there is a big push for everyone to go to the gym and keep healthy, which I have definitely benefited from. It’s a really supportive environment and I love it.

James overlooks Jerusalem on a trip.

Is there any particular rabbi that you personally connect with?

I learn with Rav Sasson every Thursday night and I am constantly texting him questions, or just to chat. I went to his house for Friday night dinner one time and I really liked him and felt like he was someone I could really connect with. Now, I go to his house every Monday night to learn and chat. There is also Rav Klapper, who I learn with every Wednesday. From the very beginning he was always making sure we all knew that he is always free to learn if we want, and was just always around for me.

What were your expectations going into Bar Ilan Israel XP and how have they differed from your actual experience?

Well, my brother has been here before and he pretty much told me everything there was to know about Bar Ilan XP. One of my expectations, that I am happy to say was met, was that he said if you have a goal the staff will help you accomplish it.

That sounds amazing! What’s a goal you had coming into the year?

I set a lot of different goals because I wanted to grow in a lot of ways. I really wanted to put on my tzitzit a lot, and now I do it every day and I’m really happy. I wanted to expand my learning and to learn more than I did in high school. Also, I have the time to read every night and eat way healthier food.

Shabbat at Rav Klapper’s house.

At Bar Ilan you have a dual curriculum, right? What’s that like?

Monday through Thursday we have Judaic Studies from 9 a.m. to noon and they are all really good classes. Then every
Tuesday there is an ulpan class at 12:30 p.m. which depends on your level; there are three of them. I credit my Frisch teachers because I placed in the top level. Then the rest of the time you get to choose up to 10 credits from a bunch of classes and pick the ones you like; you can really design your own schedule. I picked psychology, finance and marketing, and I didn’t pick any classes on Thursday so that I can have an extended weekend.

What are your favorite classes that you attend at Bar Ilan Israel XP?

On the Judaic side I absolutely love Rav Klapper’s Monday shiur, “Topics in Rambam.” We pretty much just talk about all the different topics in Judaism and we get a good look at a lot of different areas.

James hangs out with IDF soldiers.

My favorite secular class is easily psychology; I never thought I liked it but I really enjoy what I have learned in class and now I’ve been researching on my own just because of how interesting it is.

Outside of all those classes, what else do you enjoy doing in Israel?

I really like the freedom of living on my own and getting to make my own schedule. Instead of having school from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., I have classes from 9 a.m. and every day it fluctuates. It gives me a lot more time for the things that I enjoy. I have more time for running, basketball and other sports. I love being outside and getting a good game in.

What does a typical Shabbat look like for you?

So, every fifth week we have a shabbaton, either on campus or at a kibbutz. Those are always awesome. For the rest of the time, if you stay on campus you have three different options on campus and three off campus to host you. There are a total of six different rabbis who have their homes open for hosting. And when I don’t want to stay in, my mom is one of 13 and all but one of her siblings live in Israel, plus all of my grandparents and my dad’s sisters. I have a lot of family I can visit.

Eilat trip hike.

Which one of those places has been your favorite to go to?

I don’t have a favorite, they are all different and good in their own way. I like to do one week at my dorm to relax, spend two weeks with some family, and then one week with friends at a yeshiva. Then the fifth week is the shabbaton.

What has been the highlight of your year so far?

I really loved the Eilat trip. It’s Eilat, you know, what isn’t to like? Also I loved the all-boys shabbaton; it was a very different experience, just us guys chilling and it was really nice.

How do you think this year will prepare you for the rest of your life?

I have gained a really good work ethic from motivating myself, I have learned to live on my own, and I have also grown into some really good habits.

Mincha on the beach.

Purim’s coming up, do you have any interesting plans for Purim?

Yeah! On Saturday night there is an on-campus Megillah reading but also an option for a bus to a yeshiva in Ramat Gan for a different Megillah experience. I’m not sure what I want to do, but I will probably go to the yeshiva; it is definitely going to be a unique experience. Then there is bracha and l’chaim hopping at different rabbis’ houses, which is going to be nice. Then on Sunday we are going to Bnei Brak which is going to be an experience. On Shushan Purim we are off, and highly encouraged to go to Jerusalem.


Sam Savetsky of Bergenfield, is a Shana Bet student currently studying at Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah in Modi’in.

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