OTS Matat and Metivta: Strengthening Jewish Life in Northern Israel
Ohr Torah Stone’s schools in Carmiel – Yeshivat Metivta for young men and Midreshet Lindenbaum–Matat for young women – were founded six years ago as pioneering institutions of Torah learning dedicated to the Jewish growth of each individual, while also committed to strengthening the Jewish population in the Galilee in general – and the local community of Carmiel in particular, which includes many secular Israelis and new immigrants from all over the world.
The schools now boast over 320 alumni in addition to their 110 current students and remain committed to the concept of studying Jewish texts in the beit midrash – and then actually living out the values that are learned.
This year, with the assistance of Dorit and Ben J. Genet, the two schools have created a student community for those alumni who have returned to Carmiel to continue their studies and to continue contributing to the local community and northern Israel. “Ohr Torah Stone views the creation of such student communities as crucial, especially in areas where the Jewish community needs to grow,” explains OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander. “We are providing these idealistic, motivated young adults with a warm and nurturing community in which to live and study while also helping those around them and strengthening the Jewish People.”
Newlyweds Matan and Halleli Avital are among the alumni who have returned to reinvigorate and contribute to the Carmiel Jewish community. In addition to learning Torah once again at Yeshivat Metivta and Midreshet Lindenbaum-Matat, respectively, they are now also teaching classes on Judaism in a local school, and living as role models and a resource in an area with few religious families.
“I first learned to love learning Torah at Matat,” Halleli says. Following her year of learning, she enlisted in the IDF as a tatspitanit (border surveillance soldier), and eventually became an officer. “Throughout my time in the army, the Matat faculty remained in close touch with us. They visited us on bases to check in and give classes and were always available for any question. Those visits meant so much and really gave us the fuel to continue our work, even when it was hard,” she says, adding: “Most importantly, it was through my continued connection with my teachers and friends from Matat that I met Matan.”
Matan was among Metivta’s “founding students.” Explaining his decision to enroll in the first class of a newly launched yeshiva, he comments, “I was attracted by the focus on learning Torah and really living its values.” Following two years of studies at Metivta, he enlisted in the IDF, serving in the Nachal combat unit with other friends from the yeshiva. “It was very special to have Rav Netanel (Lederberg), the Rosh Yeshiva, as a resource and source of support throughout my service. I always knew I would return to the yeshiva,” he notes.
Halleli agrees: “It was the most natural thing in the world for us to return to Carmiel.”
“I couldn’t do it without their help”
In addition to her learning, Halleli works at Amutat HaBayta, a nonprofit that helps new immigrants. Students from her alma mater volunteer there as well, most recently opening a weekly Hebrew language program for new immigrants.
“Every day, I get calls from new arrivals who need help learning the language and getting settled,” relates Amutat HaBayta director Tanya Fogorlov, explaining that many new immigrants have arrived in Carmiel from Russia and Ukraine in the wake of the recent hostilities. “I can’t do it on my own and don’t have a large enough staff, so I turned to Midreshet Matat for help.”
Together with the Matat volunteers, Fogorlov put together a class for adults and a second group for children. “Each lesson is focused around a classic Israeli or Jewish song,” she says. “Participants build vocabulary, learn grammar, and explore the Israeli or Jewish themes the song addresses. With Chanukah approaching, we’ll be learning Chanukah songs. It’s an opportunity for them to learn Hebrew alongside Jewish values and Israeli culture, all at the same time. Participants love the program and I couldn’t do it without the Matat students’ help.”
Dedicated to Learning and Growing
Volunteering is part and parcel of the Matat and Metivta experience – tutoring new immigrant children, visiting isolated elderly, and packaging food to help local families in need, as well as larger initiatives throughout the year.
As such, volunteering is already second nature for the group of alumni that returned to Carmiel. Most recently, they were instrumental in organizing a recent community Shabbat program held in honor of the Shabbat Project, a worldwide movement to encourage Jews of all backgrounds to keep one Shabbat. They organized a challah baking event on Thursday evening, followed by a Shabbat service and community meal on Friday, attracting hundreds of community members – including religious and secular, veteran Israelis and immigrants from North America, South America and the Former Soviet Union. “It was so gratifying to bring out such a diverse cross-section of Carmiel to celebrate Shabbat,” Halleli says.
“What these young adults are doing is really a continuation of our vision,” says Rabbanit Neta Lederberg, the Rosh Midrasha of Matat. “They are dedicated to learning and growing, they are reinvigorating the Jewish community in Carmiel and they are giving of themselves to help others.”