June 17, 2024
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Midreshet Torat Chessed: A Different Kind of Gap Year for Girls

Englewood/Netanya—For local students who want to spend their gap year in Israel looking for the opportunity to learn Torah while performing continuous acts of chesesd, Midreshet Torat Chessed in Netanya can be the perfect choice.

Now in its second year, the midrasha is headed by Rabbi Yossi Goldin, son of Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, and its assistant Director and Eim Bayit, Mrs. Shira Melamed. The school is on the campus of the Emunah Childrens’ home, Bet Elazraki, a facility that houses and lovingly cares for over 200 children who can no longer live at home with their parents, under the guidance and leadership of Rabbi Yehuda Cohen and his wife Rikki. Rabbi Cohen started the seminary for American high school graduates after he experienced the tremendous success of his eight-year-old summer program for American teen volunteers who came to work with the residents.

The school is an intimate place, and each class led by expert teachers offers each volunteer student a personal experience, allowing them to connect to their Judaism in a profound way. Every weekday, from nine to one, the girls take four classes: Halakha, Gemara, Tanach and Jewish History, along with a subject of their choice, tailored to their individual interests. After lunch, they spend the afternoon welcoming the children of Bet Elazraki as they come back from school, as big sisters or mothers would normally do. They help their charges with homework or play with them or act as the interested adult who cares and is there for them in any circumstance. After the children’s bed time, the girls attend night seder, a perfect end to a day filled with personal satisfaction that comes from giving to others. Social workers often meet with the students to review and share any challenges they might face as caregivers in Bet Elazraki.

Admittedly, Netanya is further out from the other schools the girls’ friends might be attending in Jerusalem or in other areas of Israel. Rabbi Goldin is fond of saying “It’s far, but it’s beautiful,” as he talks about the positive aspects of being located in Netanya. It’s a charming city and the school is near private beaches and beautiful boardwalks as well as many restaurants and shopping malls.

The school subsidizes transportation to Jerusalem or elsewhere if the girls wish to visit friends or relatives for Shabbat on their two Saturdays off each month. One weekend each month is an “in” Shabbat spent with the children at Bet Elazraki while the other is spent at a school run shabbaton celebrated in various communities around Israel. Every other Monday the students participate in a special program called “Jerusalem, Up Front and Personal,” where they travel to Jerusalem to hear important and timely guest speakers, followed by guided tours around the city. Other tiyulim and shabbatonim are scheduled throughout the school year.

Says Rabbi Goldin, “It doesn’t take long before the girls at Torat Chessed clearly understand that one doesn’t have to be in the scene all the time with its many distractions, to appreciate being in Israel.”

Bet Elazraki also houses a large contingent of girls doing their Sheirut Leumi by working full time with the residents of the home. The presence of these young women also enriches the Israeli experience for the seminary students as they meet girls their own age who are so similar and yet so different than they are. The Sheirut Leumi volunteers live in the school, while the students at Torat Chessed are housed in a beautiful villa nearby that is rented just for them. That way they have their own space for their studies and their downtime relaxation. All meals are provided, but the girls can use the cooking facilities in the villa if they so desire.

When asked what they appreciated so far in this the inaugural year at Torat Chessed, the girls answered without hesitation. “We really appreciate and are newly thankful for what we have.” “Here, the opportunity for giving is endless, I really feel that I am growing as a person through chesesd and my learning.”

For further information about Torat Chessed visit

www.toratChessed.com or call Jessica Abergel- 856-393-4749.

By Estelle Glass

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