Ohr Torah Stone Yeshivot: Building Knowledge and Tools for Life
The transitions over the last few months, from the intensity of work and school to near-total lockdown in our homes and then back to a “new normal,” have enhanced the core messages of Ohr Torah Stone’s two yeshivot for men: the centrality of Torah, the importance of family, integration between the modern world and Judaism, independence, and continued growth.
“Our teachers are simply amazing,” he adds. “Even though they made sure we didn’t miss any learning while we were at home in lockdown, it is truly special to be back,” says Yishai Peled, completing his first year at the Robert M. Beren Machanaim Hesder Yeshiva. “If anything, being home for two months only strengthened our commitment to our learning and growth once we returned – to really getting everything we can from the experience before we enter the army next March.”
Machanaim, based on the Israel Henry Beren Campus in Gush Etzion, combines intensive Torah study with full service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), primarily in elite Golani and Nachal combat unites. Secular knowledge is intertwined with Torah studies, as the school embraces Jewish values related to modern challenges as part and parcel of Jewish growth.
“Machanaim is truly a special place,” says Peled. “A few masks couldn’t dampen our joy at returning.”
Full, Healthy Lives
The Ohr Torah Stone Metivta, founded in 2017 in the Galilean city of Carmiel, combines intensive Torah study with work on the mind, body and spirit prior to full IDF service.
Both Machanaim and Metivta teach students who are attracted by a sense of openness to the world around them, who are interested in deep learning alongside personal growth, and who will use the tools and knowledge they acquire to inform their attitudes and actions as soldiers, community members and leaders throughout the Jewish world.
“The teachers at Metivta come with different perspectives, areas of interest and teaching styles, which enables each of us to find our own place within Judaism,” reports second-year student Sean Sevitt. “We have classes on mindfulness, the art of learning, and relationships, in addition to the traditional learning.
“Metitva places tremendous emphasis on the importance of family,” continues Sevitt. “Being at home with our families during the lockdown was seen as another opportunity to actualize the values we’ve been learning. Our teachers encouraged us to implement what we have learned during that time – to pay attention to our actions and to work on our relationships while of course, continuing to learn Torah.”
Sevitt admits that he loved being home in lockdown with his family, “but now I couldn’t be happier to be back at Metivta. Returning to yeshiva truly felt like returning to my second family,” he says. “We don’t just learn how to learn. We learn how to live full, healthy lives.”
Learning and Growing
Students at both Machanaim and Metivta describe an atmosphere of openness and point to the strong value placed on welcoming people from varied perspectives who are interested in learning and growing.
At a June Shabbaton for some of next year’s incoming students, Machanaim welcomed 20 young men for an intensive Shabbat experience that enabled them to get to know one another and get a taste of the yeshiva environment they will be entering next year. Feld reports that several former students, now in the army, also returned to campus for the Shabbat filled with song, celebration, and deep reflection.
Classes throughout the weekend were based on themes from the weekly Torah portion, Shelach, which discusses the Jewish People’s impressions of the Land of Israel after sending spies to ‘survey the land.’
“Students discussed the place of Israel in the world, relationships between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, and the different streams of Judaism,” says Peled. “We sang and talked until late into the night, enjoying the atmosphere of Shabbat and thought-provoking conversation, and there was a sense of real joy as people from different places and perspectives sang and learned together.”