Leah Azair, Author at Partners in Torah
https://www.partnersintorah.org

Quenton & Ely

Quenton & Ely

When I had to fly home to see my dying great grandmother, who I am very close to and is a huge part of my life even today, in May of 2018 I had no idea that she would tell her whole family that she was in actuality a Ukrainian Jew who left Ukraine in 1936 with her sister for a better life in Canada. Her aunt and uncle had come to Canada in 1905 to farm on the prairies and they would move in with them. She had kept her heritage a secret from all of us, because life was easier for non Jewish people. Her and her sister changed their names, adopted Christian faith practices in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, a priest in their home town of Berezhany, Ukraine forged church documents for them, and they left to come to Canada. She came from a large Jewish family of 110 people; parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and many cousins. They all perished in the Holocaust leaving her and her sister as the only survivors.

I am an ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Canada and I am currently serving as a military chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces. With this new knowledge of our family, and realizing that I am Jewish on my Mother’s side of the family I began to process and wonder what this might look like or me. I am very fortunate that my wife and our two children, ages 4 and 1 have been so supportive of this new found information. As March of 2020 came with the beginning of a massive world shut down, an advertisement for Partners in Torah popped up on my Facebook page. So, naturally out of curiosity I explored the program online and applied for a partner. I was sent several options, and my partner that I chose, Ely Shilian, happened to be around my age, married with four kids living in Brooklyn NY. Once we connected, it was as if we had been friends our entire lives, we joke that we are probably brothers who were separated at birth. Our new found brotherhood has emerged in amazing conversations about Jewish faith, family life, studying Torah together, and how these many facets come together to make this amazingly rich life that Jewish culture is based from.

This year was particularly meaningful, thanks to my partner, in that we did not celebrate Advent like we have in years past leading up to Christmas, but instead, we celebrated our very first Hannukah with this phenomenal Hannukah care package from my partner and his family sent us. We had a menorah, dreidels, and lovely gifts that we all used. Included was a Jewish cook book that we made good use of over the holidays. We sent a Canadian themed Hannukah care package that included kippahs with a maple leaf on the top, I had one made for myself too. Maple Leaf cookies and maple leaf earrings for my partners wife and two daughters. It is our hope that once the Covid19 Pandemic is not so much a hinderance I can come to Brooklyn for a time to see what Jewish life is like with my partner. His oldest son is hopefully celebrating his Bar Mitzvah in March, I have naturally been invited, pending the safety of travel and the current pandemic. The to do list we have grows daily, we often talk once a day or every other day about all the things we want to tackle when we are able to meet finally face to face. To brother who can meet finally.

I never had any inclination that Partners in Torah, along with my partner, would have such a profound impact on my life as I am learning more about what it is to belong to such a rich heritage as is found in Judaism. Partners in Torah has allowed me to learn and I truly believe, that Judaism is the first of all religions that predicates its survival on education. Am I being educated on and embracing my new found Jewish heritage and faith more, definitely! And my partner has provided this positive welcoming environment for me to do so. I will always sing the praises of Partners in Torah; I recommend it to others any chance I get. Thank you very much for this amazing work you do, and I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to gain such an amazing, friend, brother and educator as my partner.

Tehila’s Story

Tehila’s Story

Submitted by Tehila Daveed

Imagine this –  It’s March 2007 and a  classroom of rowdy fourth graders is about to greet yet another new teacher.  Although this “problem classroom” may have been intimidating grounds for some, I was excited for the challenge, and happy to have a job after moving back to the States from Israel. 

I still remember so clearly! I walked into that classroom with confidence, introduced myself as Ms. Daveed, and became known as their “saving teacher.” I gave the students assignments and projects based on their interests and really worked hard to get to know each child. 

I remember there were twins in the grade; two sweet boys. One of them was in this class, he was a bit on the quiet side. It’s funny, I even remember where his seat was in the classroom! I recall doing my best to help him thrive, and even have memories of meeting his parents at parent-teacher conferences.

One of the reasons why I remember their mother, Tammy Lovy, is because she also worked at the school.  A few years later, when my daughter also began teaching in this school, she actually worked with Tammy in the Early Childhood Department. They became friendly, and when my daughter got married, Tammy came to the wedding! I didn’t really think much about my acquaintance with Tammy, whom I hadn’t heard of in years. Until… fast forward to a few months ago…

I didn’t really think much about my acquaintance with Tammy, whom I hadn’t heard of in years. Until… fast forward to a few months ago…

Although I’m retired, I’m quite busy with a lot of commitments, but when I saw an advertisement for The Shabbat Learning program through Partners in Torah, I couldn’t resist signing up. “It’s just 3 weeks” I thought, “I can handle this!” 

Yet, when I logged on to register, I was frustrated by the sign-up form because it was asking me to select very specific times of availability! My schedule changes daily and I didn’t want to commit to a time I couldn’t stick to. So what did I do? I just randomly threw out a time and day: Wednesdays at 3pm.

Next thing I know, I get an email with the name of my new Partner: Tammy Lovy!

Honestly, the name sounded familiar but I couldn’t place her. I called my daughter and asked her, “Remind me, do I know a Tammy Lovy?” My daughter said, “Of course! She taught with me, and you taught one of her sons!”

When I called Tammy, we instantly made the connection! She hadn’t realized it was me because I registered for Partners in Torah with my English name, but as soon as I reminded her, we were so happy to reconnect!

The funniest part is that Tammy also had a hard time coming up with a time to select on the sign-up form, so she shared that she randomly chose a time: Wednesdays at 3pm!

It was clearly meant to be that we reconnect and learn together. We love our learning sessions, and I can’t believe that her boys are now 23 years old!

Tziporah’s Story

Tziporah’s Story

Esther the Teacher

Submitted by Tziporah Jensen

“Mom, why don’t you try Partners in Torah? They’ll match you with someone for one-on-one mentoring in learning Judaism, at your beginner level,” suggested my daughter Yael in March 2020. By the time Esther from Partners in Torah connected with me, I was newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. The average length of survival was three years…

“I feel this is a wake-up call to shift my negative attitudes and behaviors,” I told Esther.

“Everything in life is a gift, a chance for growth. The Torah studies will help you in every area of life,” she replied.

I had little energy for study. So Esther gave me a  simple first assignment: say the prayer “Asher Yatzer,” each time after I used the toilet. “Thank you, G-d, there are no blockages or ruptures in any of my organs of excretion. Blessed are you, who heals all flesh wondrously.” Since the chemo caused frequent use of the toilet, I was saying this prayer six or more times a day. It reduced my terror to be reminded that G-d was in charge, not cancer, and that much of my body was still working well.

After a month, Esther suggested: “Can you try saying Modeh Ani, the prayer upon arising? And Shema, the prayer before we go to bed…” 

Esther explained the point of our many prayers was to keep ourselves in a state of gratitude to Hashem and to always remember everything comes from Hashem. We’d done this at the Veterans’ Hospital, where I’d worked with brain injury patients. Having them count all they were grateful for was the best way to help their injured brains shift out of anger or fear. Now Esther was helping me do that in the face of my own challenge.

Twice a week, we discussed the lessons contained in that week’s Torah portion. Torah had the answer to all questions, from the simple to complex. Was saying something negative about someone, even if it was the truth, a bad thing? How should I handle an intrusive neighbor? The more I learned, the more I realized I’d been engaging in thought, speech and behavior that secular society deemed okay or even admired, like witty sarcasm, but were spiritually depleting.

Esther introduced me to Guard Your Tongue, a book defining lashon hora and teaching how to avoid it. Every day I read another short lesson.

I asked: “Esther, I’m trying not to say anything negative. But what about when someone is verbally attacking me? Can’t I attack back?”

“You can never embarrass a person publicly, even if they’re engaged in bullying. Call them aside and appeal to their better nature. Don’t criticize them publicly,” she said. 

Now I understood why  I felt bad after reducing someone down to size with a clever quip. I’d reduced my own spiritual level, too. 

I began listening to great podcasts Esther sent during daily walks. I set up a routine of Torah study and began keeping Shabbat fully. I threw out all the nonkosher items in my kitchen. My greatest fear had been spending the short time I had left in pandemic isolation. I began to view the combination of a pandemic and cancer as the crucible I needed to devote myself to learning the precious gift of Torah, my birthright. 

Tziporah with daughter, Yael

“Mom, you sound like a different person!” said Yael over the phone from her college dorm. I’d made more personal progress in six months with Esther, than in a lifetime of attempts at self-improvement. Each day I took care of my body–chemo, healthy food, acupuncture, vitamins–but the center of my life was getting closer to G-d through study, prayer and mitzvot. Yael had been trying to become more observant for two years on her own. Now she had a kosher, Shabbat-observant home to return to from college and a parent interested in discussing Torah wisdom with her.

As my soul discarded poisonous thinking and behavior, my body did its own healing. The cancer retreated, the blood markers returning to normal. “This is wonderful!” said my doctor, “Let’s hope you can live a normal lifespan.”

But I was no longer as focused on the length of my life as its quality. Thanks to studying with Esther, I understood a good life was always long enough

Yehuda’s story

Yehuda’s story

The Gift of Learning Partners

Submitted by Yehuda Zimberg

Hello, My name is Yehuda Zimberg. I’m from New York, I am 26 years old, and I have a stutter.

I have been stuttering since I was eight years old. There wasn’t any traumatic experience that caused it; it just popped up out of the blue. I would not consider it a terrible stutter, but a stutter nonetheless. The fear and humiliation of stuttering made me very self-conscious and I became shy, quiet, and reserved. This was not the person I wanted to be, but rather the person I became due to my stutter. My parents took me to get speech therapy and constantly reassured me that everything would be fine. I met with wonderful people who helped along the way (Deirdre Casey, Uri, and Phil Schneider, Yanky Kaufman to name a few), but my ego was at a point where I was too stubborn and proud to get help or let people help me. Over the years, I learned to deal with my stutter – I wasn’t happy about it but I learned how to live with it.

Fast forward a few years later… I am in Israel learning in Yeshiva. I was in Jerusalem one day and went into Mannys Book Store. As I was browsing the shelves, a title jumped out at me: “The Gift of Stuttering.” I thought to myself: “who is this sick guy calling stuttering a gift?! Stuttering is a curse!”…

Of course,  I picked up a copy, skimmed through the pages, became intrigued, and purchased the book. Moe Mernick is the author’s name, and the book is about his personal journey confronting life challenges, i.e., Stuttering.

While reading through the book, I could not help but that Moe and I have a lot in common. I have a stutter; Moe has a stutter. I am a Kohen; Moe is a Kohen. I use Preparation H… Never mind the last part, but you get the idea. 

The way that Moe was describing his struggles made me feel like I was meeting an old friend who understood everything that I was going through. Even the little things that were easy for someone else, such as being asked your name, ordering food, or talking on the phone, Moe and I found extremely difficult. 

However, I think the point that spoke to me most is that Moe has this confidence to embrace his stutter; to be open and forthcoming about it. He writes that when he would meet new people, he would often say, “I would like to introduce you to my stutter; he might pop up soon to say hi.” He showed that a stutter is not something to hold you back from accomplishing your goals. It is not something to be afraid of. It is just another piece of the puzzle, making up the larger picture of one’s life. To me, the very idea of being forthcoming and open about stuttering was taboo. The very thought that I could introduce myself to someone and say I have a stutter was something I never dared to do until I read Moe’s story.

My time in Israel came to a close, and I returned to New York to begin dating. Using Moe’s openness technique, I started the dates off by introducing myself and my stutter. People were so taken aback that I was comfortable with my speech! They saw this as a plus in my personality. Long story short, I got married to a wonderful girl, and we now have a child! I work as a Concierge in a nursing home, which forces me to meet and talk with people and their families every day. A job your typical stuttering person wouldn’t be signing up for! I do not believe I would’ve had the confidence to pursue this job or get married if I hadn’t read The Gift of Stuttering.

Another thing that happened during my time in Israel is that I got hooked to the teachings of Reb Noach Weinberg. Since then, I have invested a lot into buying his books and other similar reading material to help deepen my connection to Judaism and hopefully some else’s. 

My sister joined Partners in Torah almost 2 years ago, and she says it has changed her life. We speak on the phone pretty often, and I offer books or reading material that may help her and her partner deepen their connection to Judaism. She has been telling me for the past year: “Yehuda, you’ve got to join Partners in Torah!” I kept pushing her off saying I do not think I am ready to take on such an undertaking. 

Then, a few weeks ago, she sent me an email showing how the Shabbat Project and Partners in Torah were teaming up for a “get your feet wet 3-week learning experience.” She said the material is given to you by Partners in Torah, and all you have to do is read off a paper 30 minutes a week for 3 weeks. I told her I would think about it. After debating in my head for a few days, I hesitantly agreed, but only this one time! She was very excited and sent me a link to sign up. The form asked what the best time available to learn is; I filled out from 5-8 AM, not really thinking someone is available at those times because A: it would be too early, and B: people are on their way to work. 

After I submitted it, I was told it might take a few days until they find someone compatible. They said to be on the lookout for a text or an email to notify me if they found me a partner. 

A few days later, I got a text saying they found me a partner and that I should check my email for more information. I logged onto my email nervously and saw they partnered me up to learn with someone from Israel at 5:00 AM on Tuesdays. What was my partner’s name? None other than… Mr. Moe Mernick. I did a double-take, and I reread the email slowly to make sure my eyes were working properly. I quickly called my sister to tell her they found me a partner, and his name is Moe Mernick. She got very excited over the phone and asked, “Do you know who that is?!” I said, “Unless there are two Moe Mernick’s, the one I am thinking about is the one who wrote the book The Gift of Stuttering.” She replied, “I know, but do you know who that is?!” Now I know that I have a stutter, but I did not know she also has one! So I told her again, “Yes, he is the author of the book that has influenced me in a great way!” She said, “Not only that… Moe Mernick is also in charge of Partners in Torah!”

When Moe and I started on that first Tuesday at 5 am, just to be sure, I asked him if he is the one who wrote the book, and he responded yes! I then proceeded to tell him all that you have just read and said, “What are the odds that the algorithm set us up?!”

The three weeks of learning ended, and so did our official learning partnership. But I finally took the plunge and signed up to be a participant for Partners in Torah!

Looking back at the 3-week learning experience, I am still so awed at the amazing “coincidence” that I was paired up with Moe Mernick! 

This why I truly believe our partnership is truly A Match Made in Heaven.  

Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth’s Story

A Secret Shared

Submitted by Elizabeth Savetsky, Shabbos Program Participant

This week I found myself sobbing on the phone to a woman I barely knew. Oh, and did I mention that she was crying too? Wait, let me back up the story and start from the beginning. But you might want to hold onto your socks.

I always feel better when I’m investing in my spiritual growth, but for the past several years, that’s taken a backseat to motherhood, work, and the chaos of life. On most days, I barely find time to take a shower, let alone open an inspiring book. 

But my life was about to change when I received an email asking me to participate in an “Influencers Virtual Challah Bake” with Partners In Torah. I felt it would be a very uplifting evening in these uncertain times. It was an opportunity to give my Instagram followers a chance to join together with hundreds of women around the world as a community for collective inspiration. To my surprise, I was so moved by the event that I took the plunge and signed up for the three week Shabbos learning program. This gave me the privilege to learn weekly with Partners in Torah’s Senior Educator, Adina Stilerman.

Adina and I are very different women on the surface, with different backgrounds, different levels of religious observance, and very different interests. However, from our first call, Adina and I realized how much more in common we had beneath our outer shells. We are both working mamas with strong Jewish values and an incredibly passionate (sometimes maybe a little too passionate) approach to life. But, I had no idea that I was about to discover that we also shared a secret about a tiny corner of the earth—a place that changed us both forever….

 

When Adina called me for our second learning session, I was in the middle of a death-defying balancing act, with my right hand comforting my screaming 6-week-old baby, and my left hand scrambling to prepare his bottle, all whilst calling (read: shouting) instructions into the next room to my panicking 8-year-old daughter on how to get back onto her Zoom class. 

Are you picturing the mayhem?

When I heard the phone ring, I thought to myself, “Oh no, that must be Adina! Not now! I don’t have time to study Torah right now! Why did I even sign up for this??” I ran and picked up the phone just before it went to voicemail, so I could tell her we needed to reschedule—not that there’s ever a better time with my current juggling act.

Adina immediately sensed my frantic energy and said, “Elizabeth, is everything okay?” I started to list off my endless parade of stressors and was about to propose a reschedule when she asked me if she could tell me a story. “Um, sure,” I blurted out, figuring I could put her on speakerphone as I fed the baby and I would do my best to pay attention. 

Now this is the part of the story that makes me so grateful that I didn’t reschedule on that day. 

She opened up to me, relating that when she found out that she was expecting her fifth child, she was still grieving the recent loss of her mother. At that moment in time she couldn’t imagine being responsible for another baby. In addition, the news came just before she was scheduled to lead a Holocaust education trip to Poland. She just didn’t know how she would hold it together.

For the first few days in Poland, she maintained a strong facade for the benefit of the group, but inside, she was miserable and feeling sorry for herself. Physically, she struggled with the long bus rides and emotionally she was somewhat dispirited about the baby within. All she wanted was to go home. 

 One morning, the tour guide came up to her on the bus and informed her that he had just added in a last-minute stop on their itinerary and asked her if she could speak there: The Children’s Forest in Zbylitowska Góra. Adina had been to Poland several times already but she had never visited that site. In fact, she was slightly annoyed that he had added it in without first getting her approval. Well, too late now! They were going to be there in 5 minutes, so she quickly Googled the place to help her prepare something to say. When the Wikipedia page popped up, her eyes skimmed the words and her heart stopped…  What she read can only be described as a horror of the unimaginable kind. It was a heart-wrenching account of the massacre of innocent, helpless children. She read the date…June 11, 1942… the number 800 popped out at her….Jewish little children from an orphanage…marched from the nearby Tarnow ghetto…thrown in a pit…the German’s opened fired…tossed hand grenades… until the last screams were silenced…she closed the screen.

She couldn’t read anymore.

Adina got off the bus and walked slowly through the forest, well behind the group, toward the mass grave.

Her heart was still racing but now her mind was running its own marathon. She thought about her four little ones at home, and of course the one on the way that she just didn’t have the perspective to appreciate…until now. By the time she reached the clearing, she was so overcome with emotion, she couldn’t even open her mouth to speak. She just wept. The group wept along with her.

As she breathed in the air where these 800 pure young souls took their last breaths on earth, her mindset shifted completely. She was overwhelmed by an enormous surge of gratitude and purpose.  She thought about the mothers of those children who would’ve given anything to save their precious babies, and her entire outlook on her impending blessing changed. The worry and anxiety she once felt no longer carried the same weight. She vowed to never forget to appreciate the gift she was granted –  to be a mother.

She turned upwards and with tears streaming down her face and overwhelming gratitude in her heart whispered, “G-d, thank you for giving me the privilege to bring another pure soul into the world.” 

Months later,  G-d gifted Adina with a beautiful baby girl. That child carries her mother’s name and turned out to be the biggest comfort for her loss…”

She stopped talking for a minute.

“Elizabeth?”

I couldn’t speak.

“Elizabeth, are you there?”As Adina told me her story, a chill ran up my spine and I began to break down in tears. I could not believe what I was hearing. You see, I had had my own pivotal moment in that exact same place halfway across the world, deep within the Polish forest of Zbylitowska Góra!!

“Adina, you’re not going to believe this.”

I took her back to May of 2018, when I went to Poland on a whim. It had been a longtime dream of mine to take this intense journey, but like Adina, the timing was anything but logical. I had just suffered a second ectopic pregnancy and was recovering from an emergency surgery to remove my ruptured fallopian tube. I was a bit of a mess both physically and emotionally. I remember feeling fear as the question of having  children in the future hung in the air. And of course there was anger towards G-d for putting me through this. 

My brother-in-law called me: “Lizzy, I just found this trip to Poland over Memorial Day weekend. We should sign up!” I told him I could absolutely not do that right now considering my emotional state, my two young daughters, and my husband’s insane work schedule. Mostly, I felt fragile and was experiencing situational depression. I could only imagine that a week of Holocaust history would pull me even further down my spiral of negativity. But after I hung up with him, the thought of going kept tugging at my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, nor talking about it for that matter! Finally, my husband Ira said to me, “Just go on the dang trip!! We’ll figure out how to handle everything here!” I booked it immediately, before I lost the courage, and I don’t think I slept a peaceful night until the day we left. I was so unbelievably nervous!! 

 From the moment we landed in Warsaw, and as we made our way through Poland, I felt a stronger connection to my Jewish identity than ever before. Each site we visited was like a call to action to bring forth the voices which could no longer speak for themselves. 

But as I related to Adina, it was the morning of our third day in Poland that was the pinnacle of the trip for me. The rabbi leading our trip came over to me on the bus and asked me, just as she was asked, if I would be willing to speak at the place to which we were headed. I did not yet know that we were going to the Children’s Forest nor did I know anything about what had happened there. He said it may be the hardest moment of the trip for many of us and felt that because I was a mom of young children, I could help bring the significance of this spot to life.

When we got there, he handed me a paper to read. It was a letter written by a young mother to her one-year-old daughter. The woman was sending her daughter away into hiding in order to save her life, as she knew that she herself would likely be sent to a death camp very soon. I read the letter and could barely get through it.  She conveyed on that paper the torture of being torn from her baby, of the thought of never seeing her again. It was so real, so raw. Every member of our group was crying. I sat down on a tree trunk right next to the blue painted fence of this mass grave, where 800 innocent children had been robbed of their lives, and I wept.

The group gathered to say some prayers and comfort one another, but I couldn’t move from my tree trunk. I felt an overwhelming desire to put my newfound feelings into words. I pulled out my phone and typed a letter to my daughters back at home. 

“I didn’t know what it meant to purely love until I became your mother. I had no expectations for how those first moments would feel with you in my arms, but as I think of your beautiful faces now, I know I am fulfilling a special purpose. I am perpetuating our people who have endured persecution, expulsion, terrorism and murder, all the while miraculously maintaining that unique identity that was the cause of the oppression. For this purpose, I feel incredibly lucky.” My time spent in the forest shifted my whole outlook on my critical role as a mother. Bringing Jewish children into the world is not simply about perpetuating numbers. It’s about kindling the Jewish souls in my charge. 

And so, dear readers, that’s how I found myself sobbing on the phone together with a woman I barely knew. Yes, we had just met, but at that moment I felt that we were intimately connected because of our unique shared experience.

I also feel that it is not a coincidence that the material we received from the Shabbos Learning Program this week on Havdalah was about the fleeting nature of inspiration. We read that moments of clarity are like sparks. Most of the time they are only bold and bright for a brief time before they are gone and we feel ourselves slip back into the darkness of apathy and misdirection. But if kindled properly, like the Havdalah candle, they can turn into a blazing fire that lights up that darkness. It can be used as a memory one can tap into in time of need.

I’m so grateful that I didn’t have a chance to reschedule my learning session with my Partner in Torah. 

Dr. Glenn Grossman (Canoga Park, CA) & Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky (Woodmere, NY)

Dr. Glenn Grossman (Canoga Park, CA) & Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky (Woodmere, NY)

This dynamic duo is tangible proof of the power of 1:1 learning!

Dr. Glenn Grossman (Canoga Park, CA) is an accomplished doctor in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, and his partner Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky (Woodmere, NY)  is the Rosh Yeshiva of a Jewish high school for boys. 

For the past four years (mazal tov on this learniversary!), these two highly accomplished men have made time to learn together. First, they learned Parsha, and now they are almost finished with Mishnayot Brachot and are hoping to move on to learning Gemara! 

And their feedback speaks volumes! Rabbi Kamientzky said that being involved in Partners in Torah “has opened up a world of teaching and learning to me I never knew about.” Coming from an accomplished educator… wow!

He encourages all who are not involved to sign up to learn with a partner because “you will get far more than you give!”

Pictured are the two happy partners with their wives when they met for the first time a year ago in California!

Renee Vlashi (West Hills, CA) & Penina Berman (Baltimore, MD)

Renee Vlashi (West Hills, CA) & Penina Berman (Baltimore, MD)

Through the past six years, Renee Vlashi (West Hills, CA) and Penina Berman (Baltimore, MD) have built a beautiful partnership! In Renee’s words: “Penina has become my go to person for anything Jewish and I would highly recommend Partner’s in Torah’s program to anyone looking to heighten their Jewish life!”

It’s so wonderful to hear that they got to meet last March! As Renee shared: “Being able to meet in person was such a special occasion as we live on opposite coasts from each other. Penina took us on a “Tour of Jewish Baltimore” starting with a wonderful gourmet kosher lunch at Serengeti’s restaurant… We all had a great time!”

May these committed partners be able to continue learning and growing together for many years to come… and be able to meet again in person!

Trude Reiser (Dunlap, IL) & Guttie Augenstein (Brooklyn, NY)

Trude Reiser (Dunlap, IL) & Guttie Augenstein (Brooklyn, NY)

One of the incredible aspects of Partners in Torah’s participants is that they come from all over the world. It’s humbling to hear how people in remote Jewish communities can find connection through their involvement with a partner. 

One example is Trude Reiser (Peoria, IL), who shared: “I live in Peoria, IL, around 3 hours from Chicago and around 3 hours from St. Louis.  In Peoria, there are few Jewish learning opportunities and few Jewish resources.” Trude signed up for Partners in Torah in hopes of increasing her connection through learning. She and her partner Guttie Augenstein (Brooklyn, NY) are now celebrating their 3 year learniversary! They have studied the laws of Shabbat in depth and are now focusing on prayer. 

Trude added: “Besides these formal learning topics, Guttie has greatly influenced other aspects of my life… she has enhanced my ability to transmit Judaism to my grandchildren… While Guttie started as a study partner, she has become so much more.  I truly value her friendship and I always look forward to our study time together.”

Guttie echoed Trude’s sentiments so beautifully: “I can’t believe it has been three years since we began to study. Our relationship has evolved over time.  Initially our relationship was focused on our studies. During Corona, our focus shifted. Covid has certainly changed our lives. Over the past couple of months, we have spent more time shmoozing. We compare our lifestyles, and share our belief in Hashem that He runs the world and we have to trust and rely on Him. I admire Trudy’s commitment to Judiasm… I feel that by sharing our experiences from our different backgrounds my life has become enriched. I don’t take my Judaism for granted. Practicing Judaism is easier in Brooklyn. Living out of town in Peoria, Illinois, makes Judaism more of a challenge. Trudy has certainly stood steadfast in her beliefs!”

Rebecca Lang (Atlanta, GA) & Bena Tarlow (Lakewood, NJ)

Rebecca Lang (Atlanta, GA) & Bena Tarlow (Lakewood, NJ)

Woah, 15 years of learning and commitment!! A huge mazal tov to Rebecca Lang (Atlanta, GA) and Bena Tarlow (Lakewood, NJ) on this incredible accomplishment!

We love Rebecca’s beautiful feedback: “While we have read numerous texts through the years and Bena has answered countless questions for me, it’s learning by Bena’s example that has taught me the most.  Bena is more learned, but she never makes me feel like less than a partner.  It always feels like we’re learning something together.  Bena inspires me in so many ways.  Bena is my chevrusa, my mentor, my friend. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner!”

Debbie Goldman (Baltimore, MD) & Nechama Burnham (Jerusalem, Israel)

Debbie Goldman (Baltimore, MD) & Nechama Burnham (Jerusalem, Israel)

Are you curious about the three participants pictured here?! We’d love to share the story (well, really, the multiple stories!) behind it!

Debbie Goldman (Baltimore, MD) and Nechama Burnham (Jerusalem, Israel) began learning three years ago, and although they live so far away from each other, and amazing story brought them together in person!

As Nechama shares: “About two weeks after we had begun studying together, we got an invitation to a wedding, which my husband left on my computer–I was flabbergasted. We had only just “met”–how could my Partner have gotten an invitation to me so soon? When I told my husband [who is a Jewish educator] how amazed I was, he replied, “That’s not your partner; that’s my student, whom I have kept in contact with.” I replied, “Well, guess what? Your student is marrying my partner’s daughter!”  Even more incredible than that, it “just so happened” that we had planned a trip to the States… so I got to really meet my partner in person, for the first time, at the wedding! What a lovely way to begin a learning relationship!”

Wow! Since then, these two have continued their learning together, and a year ago, decided to add one more participant to their sessions! Devora Shore (LaJolla, California) is married to one of Nechama’s husband’s students. She expressed a desire to learn, and Nechama and Debbie offered that she join them! 

And another amazing aspect: Nechama has an additional partnership that is soon to celebrate a 6 year learniversary! Stay tuned to hear more in a future newsletter…!