“Worried Mother”

When Yoni first shared with us that he had met amazing Rabbis and that he wished to continue his studies in Israel, thereby postponing his studies at medical school, we were quite hesitant, even disappointed and did not fully support his choice. That was until visiting Machon Shlomo in Israel and as a worried mother asking for a meeting with Rabbi Gershenfeld. It was an eye opening experience as I realized how exciting this opportunity was for my son. If I could, I would have wanted to drop everything to start studying myself!

We had gone in skeptical, sure that we would see this was not for our son and walked out elated feeling that Machon Shlomo would give him time to map out his future and himself. Life does not offer many better opportunities to grow in a way that appeal to both the intellect and to the emotional and spiritual sides of life.

Over the years, I have personally met many quality teachers and rabbis in my professional life; still I was amazed by the quality of the people I kept meeting at Machon Shlomo and in Har Nof- the surrounding community. Not only were we impacted by the caliber of the intellectual capacities, but also by who each person was. There was no question that each person embodied the values they discussed. This was real!

These remarkable opportunities have added to his world view in significant ways. As many in the family can now attest, Yoni is capable of overcoming many of life’s challenges with empathy and warmth by connecting to the deep wisdom of Torah. I truly believe any parent will ultimately be thankful, even if at first it seems foreign and unknown, that their child had the time to fully develop beyond academics into a well rounded mentsch!

Also, on a more practical note, as parents we wondered how seeing our son’s changes as he embraced an observant life would affect our very close relationship. We worried that as a family some of the things we enjoyed to do together would have to change in response.   We wondered if there would be a rejection of our values and if this would create a wedge in a very close relationship. Thankfully, none of this happened, Yoni has embraced honoring his parents in a powerful way. He has always been a respectful son, but actually, in how deeply he lives these values he has become even more aware.

We make an effort to accommodate him and he does the same from his end whenever possible. If anything, when I see his peers. I feel blessed that my son has chosen to live life according to deep values—and not only to talk about them but to become “them”. As my mother stated in a phone call not long ago: “I have never seen anyone at this age have the depth and maturity that he has.” And this is after her questioning every bit of his chosen journey…

Diana Ganger
Organizational Consultant
Chicago, Illinois

“A Change in Relationship?”

I recall sitting with my wife on the beach in the late summer sometime back when my son called telling us that he decided to quit his job in real estate to study in Israel. He had just finished a ten day Jewish retreat and shocked us with this news. Our son told us that he had decided to pursue an observant lifestyle and needed to spend a year of learning Torah in Israel!

Our son had been living in California for the past three years, far away from his family and friends who were on the East Coast. During that time, circumstances were such that he decided to do some Jewish learning to gain additional background since he had only attended afternoon Hebrew School two days a week up until the time of his bar mitzvah. My wife and I were pleased that he had decided to do some additional Jewish learning. However, his plan to quit his job to study in Jerusalem was a big surprise. We wondered whether he was making a rash decision after being immersed in some sort of spiritual retreat.

We had a lot of conversations about the reasons for our son’s decision to study in Israel. We supported his desire to learn more about Judaism and perhaps living a more traditional lifestyle. However, we had many concerns and doubts as to what this all meant in terms of his career and more importantly, his relationship to us, his siblings and the rest of the family. Life can take many different paths and we did not know where this would all lead.

Our son told us about Marchon Shlomo and its philosophy. At that time, there was very little information on the internet about Machon Shlomo, so I made inquiries of various observant business associates. Both my wife and I were somewhat comforted when we heard of the strong reputation of Machon Shlomo and that of Rabbi Gershenfeld in various circles of the Observant community, particularly those involved in the Baal Teshuva movement and Jewish outreach. Our son was quite determined to pursue his mission. So, at 25 years old, our son quit his job and flew to Jerusalem to begin his study at the Machon Shlomo.

We visited him several times during his studies and found the Machon to be a wonderful place for learning where men immersed themselves in an environment which allowed them to learn how to lead an observant life with continuous learning while at the same time being able to pursue a career. We found that the men learning at Machon Shlomo had varying degrees of Jewish education and background. However, we found that they all had shared attributes of being successful academically, career minded and driven to derive more from life than just money and success. These were men who were looking to make a difference in the world by leading a life of Torah. Rabbi The Rabbis at Machon Shlomo had a keen understanding how to reach each of the students in a manner which would allow them to pursue their own goals and mission in life through living a more committed lifestyle.

Although my wife and I had our initial doubts and concerns, looking back now, the best decision our son made was to spend time learning at Machon Shlomo. He met his wife in Israel after finishing his time at the Machon. They now live relatively close to us in a wonderful observant community where they are raising our two wonderful grandchildren and living a life of Torah. And, unlike our initial fears, our son and daughter-in law have brought our family much closer together and made our lives much more meaningful.

Dean Schuckman
Certified Public Accountant
Stamford, Connecticut

“Positives that Outweigh Negatives”

When our son, Andy, told my husband and me that he had made the decision to become observant, it certainly took us by surprise. Although ours was a Jewish home, we were not very religious and knew very little about observant practice.  But after much thought and soul searching Andy felt very strongly that this was what he wanted to be a part of, and we told him that we would support him as we had tried to do all his life.

When Andy went to Israel to study at Machon Schlomo, we were concerned that this would alienate him from us.  But before he left he assured us that this would not happen…and it didn’t!  And when I went to visit him a few months later, I was pleased to see that all the young men there were very much like him.

It has been almost 20 years, and although there are still many things I don’t understand (and some I don’t agree with) the positives have far outweighed the negatives. During my husband’s 7 year battle with Alzheimer’s (which he lost a year ago) Andy and his wonderful wife and children were always there as a constant source of strength and comfort.  And I am so fortunate to have been an integral part of the lives of their precious children, with whom I am very close.  Their children were also a blessing to my husband before and during his illness.

My late husband was also very proud of them and their lifestyle and a vocal advocate to anyone who would listen.

Diane Wedeck
Retail Sales (Retired)
Teaneck, New Jersey