April 16, 2024
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Stamford’s MALT Set to Head to Israel

The Men’s Adult Learning Trip (MALT) from Stamford, Connecticut travels to Israel every other year in November. MALT is composed of a group of men who travel together to Israel for Torah learning each morning, and tiyulim related to the learning each afternoon. It is a partnership with Ohr Torah Stone (OTS), and has been going on biannually for 20 years, this November marking its 21st year.

MALT was developed by Rabbi Tzvi Bernstein with his friends Hyman Schaffer and Rabbi David Walk, and men between the ages of 18 and 120 are eligible for this experiential learning trip. Throughout their time in Israel, MALT participants have stayed at numerous places such as The Inbal Jerusalem Hotel, King Solomon Hotel, Efrat Guest House, Dan Panorama and, this year, the Leonardo Plaza. There are no donors set for this year’s trip yet, and no scholarships available at present, although that will hopefully change as the trip draws closer. Typically, every man pays for himself, although collectively they try to keep costs down. Rabbi Bernstein usually puts the itinerary together, along with David Katz, international director of Ohr Torah Stone, and each MALT trip focuses on a particular theme.

Every year MALT leaves on the Motzei Shabbat of Thanksgiving weekend and departs from Israel the following Motzei Shabbat, although some participants choose to go earlier and/or stay later. MALT is meaningful and worthwhile for everyone regardless of their prior Jewish education or familiarity with Israel. The exhilarating trip includes participants with diverse Jewish educational backgrounds, from men who have never had any formal Jewish education to yeshiva graduates and rabbis. It has also included people who were never in Israel previously.

Rabbi Bernstein stated, “Every single participant has felt rewarded for joining the program and no man is left behind, educationally or otherwise.”

MALT’s partnership with OTS is a key part of the program. OTS is an umbrella organization for numerous schools, seminaries, a legal aid center, outreach centers, rabbinical college and many other educational and Jewish outreach programs. Founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, it is now run by Rabbi Kenneth Brander. In addition to introducing the group to world renowned scholars for in depth study, OTS arranges many opportunities to visit unusual sites which are connected to the learning they do each morning. The purpose of the journey is limud haTorah on a particular theme each trip, specially designed tiyulim associated with the learning that the men are doing, and camaraderie with enjoyment of the Holy Land.

MALT is a Talmud Torah K’neged Torah trip all the way around. Men take time off from their busy lives to learn Torah for one week and see how that Torah is integrated into Israeli life during their tours. “The dozens of Torah personalities and brilliant scholars who have given us shiurim over the years, everyone from Rav Riskin to the rosh hayeshiva of Ponevezh (Rav Pavorsky), makes each MALT trip one that cannot be replicated anywhere else but Eretz Yisroel,” explained Rabbi Bernstein. One MALT trip, for example, was during a Shemita year, and the laws of Shemita became the theme of the trip. The MALT group heard shiurim from Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon, then visited various pardesim (fields) and spoke to the farmers about how they dealt with the restrictions of that year.

According to Rabbi Bernstein, “Every trip has at least one moment that is exceedingly rare and personally moving.” When asked about one of these moments he described, “Friday night dinner we were having in a dining room that overlooked the Kotel Plaza. At one point, late into the meal, we all started singing zemirot and eventually dancing around the table. I looked out at the Kotel and saw something I had never seen before, an entirely empty plaza, but for one guard. We danced down to the Kotel and continued dancing in a circle. It felt like Har Habayit belonged to our group on this very special Friday night together. As we sang and danced, arms around shoulders, the guard could not resist participating and joined in our circle as we danced together. It was a truly spiritual moment and a little something you can’t get at home!.”

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