April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Jason Blatt Immerses in Israeli Culture and Tanach

Jason Blatt is studying in Yeshivat Har Ezion (“Gush”) in Alon Shevut community in the Etzion Bloc of Judea. He was born in Riverdale, NY and later moved to Highland Park, NJ, went to Rabbi Pesach Raymon’s yeshiva for elementary school and YUHSB-MTA for high school. Jason’s family davens in many of the shuls in his community, including Ohav Emeth, Ohr Torah and Ahavat Achim.

His plans for next year? Rutgers University, though he plans on making aliyah afterwards.

Why did you choose to learn at Gush?

When I was trying to decide which yeshiva I wanted to attend during my gap year in Israel, I had three main criteria my yeshiva would need to possess. First, a large Israeli population to assist me with my future plans of making aliyah, but would also include a nice group of Americans as well, so I would at least be able to talk some English throughout my day. Second, I was looking for a program with a strong Tanach curriculum. I really felt like I was lacking a strong foundation in Tanach, considering I spent most of my Torah study time in the past learning Gemara. I felt it was important to go somewhere where I would be able to leave with as strong a Tanach stronghold as possible. The third and final factor was a high level of education—I had no interest in wasting this ever-so-important year. After taking all of that into account Gush was the obvious choice.

What kind of goals do you have for your year?

As I had mentioned, I really was looking to build up my Tanach foundation, but beyond this, there were quite a few other things I was looking to gain out of this year. I was really looking to become stronger in my observance and zehirut (fastidiousness) in the realm of halacha. Also, probably the biggest of all of my goals, was to gain a passion that I see so many great Jews possess, but I felt like I lacked until now. I felt like my Judaism consisted of me obeying that which I knew was correct to do but not much more. This year, I really wanted to learn how to view my Jewish obligations not as mere commandments but more as acts I do to profess a desire to fulfill God’s will. I really felt like that love, passion and desire was lacking from my life previously and can’t wait to be inspired!

What has been one of the biggest highlights of your year so far?

Definitely a huge highlight of the year thus far has been Yom Kippur. Beyond being my favorite Yom Kippur yet, one of the most inspiring moment of my life happened just as the day was fading. As is done every year, it is customary to end the Yom Kippur services with the words “L’Shana HaBah BiYerushalayim”—“Next Year in Jerusalem.” For most of us from Chutz LaAretz this was the first time in our lives we got to sing this line in context of Yom Kippur actually being in Eretz Yisrael and it was the most moving thing I have ever seen. Everywhere I looked was another friend of mine from the United States, Canada, South Africa, England, Australia or anywhere else represented here in Gush, with wet eyes, unable to contain themselves. It was a beautiful sight to watch and will definitely stick with me the rest of my life.

What kind of challenges have you faced coming to Israel?

The biggest difficulty of this year has been the geographic distance between myself and my family. It’s hard not to see the people I love so dearly and whom I’m so accustomed to seeing every day, for such a long span of time. While I’ve already had the privilege of having my parents come visit me last month, it’s still not the same. I’ve already missed some family s’machot and other events such as siblings’ productions. It’s hard but I know that all my work here will really pay off and the sacrifices I have made are minute compared to the progress I will have made in my Avodat Hashem.

How has being here been different from your expectations? Did you feel prepared for your experience or did you have culture shock, and how so?

Probably the biggest shock I’ve experienced thus far has been the true sense of spirit that exists here in Gush. Before coming here I heard from many different sources that Gush is dry, very serious and quite spiritless, but how wrong have they been. From weekly Friday night tishim to our weekly Thursday night singing of “Ka Echsof” to our almost daily machshava and mussar shiurim, Gush is far from spiritless. Every single rebbe here is so full of ruach and power it is astounding—just watching them dance on Simchat Torah was an inspiration. This just comes to show that you can’t really believe everything you hear until you see it for yourself.

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

So far, my favorite place to go for Shabbat has definitely been to a small suburb of Elkanah called Ramat Elkanah, where I stayed with a friend of mine from camp (Moshava I.O.). A highlight of my weekend in Ramat Elkanah was that I really felt like I was in Israel, around natives. I barely heard a word of English, and everywhere I looked people were living the free-spirited, family-oriented, loving Israeli lifestyle that I’m so excited to join when I move to Israel for good in a few years.

What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

From the rest of the year? I just hope to continue to grow. The adjustment period is long gone and now all I need to do is just focus on my personal growth and it looks like I may just reach my goals. Baruch HaShem, Thank God!

By Tzvi Silver


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