“The Control Freak Mother” ♦ “The Challenges Along The Way” ♦ “Be Careful What You Wish For” ♦ “A Different Path to Career Development”

The Control Freak Mother

Dear Rabbi Jacobs and Rabbi Gershenfeld,

There are so many things I’d like to start off with. But probably more important than anything, I should thank you and the other staff at Machon Yaakov for the care and attention you gave our son Gabriel. He could not have been in more loving hands…. and for a control-freak mother as I am, that is saying a lot! During his 2-year tenure at the Yeshiva, it was clear he was surrounded by people who cared about his overall well-being.

If truth be told, Allen and I, Gabe’s father and I, had some initial concerns. Gabe has been raised in a home where critical thinking is paramount. He’s been taught to do the right thing regardless of those around you and to be true to your own thinking and feeling. Our greatest fears were allayed. In fact, his astute critical thinking proved an asset to his studies and the Yeshiva experience as a whole.

I would hope that Gabe shared his life experiences vis a vis Judaism, and that you know Gabe came to the Yeshiva from a home comparatively knowledgeable Jewishly. You also know that Gabe grew up in a home where Jewish practice and football went hand in hand. By that I mean, in a community filled with Jews, we were among the few visibly practicing Jews. And that while he was Captain of the Football and Baseball teams, he was also observing Kashrut in the home and out. His “journey” towards observance is not a surprise to those who know Gabriel.

Nor is his journey towards “learning more” text, halacha, mitzvot, etc. His Yeshiva years have taken him further down that road. You have filled the cup from which he could drink. Better yet, you have shown him when he is thirsty again, how to drink some more. He is the child who now knows more than the parent.

As a former Jewish Educator trained at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a stalwart Conservative Jew, about the only issue “at issue” has been the merits of Conservative Judaism and Orthodoxy. Fortunately, Shalom Bayit is far more important and our family can accommodate both!

I must admit, Gabe was very gentle and steadfast as he guided us through his studies and activities these past 2 years. His calm, determined demeanor helped both his father and I understand the full scope of his commitment to his Jewish learning. For that he is to be commended. And for reinforcing that commitment I commend you and your staff, his teachers. There are no more important people in a person’s life, aside from one’s parents. After all, through the students they teach, it is our teachers who have the power to make all the difference in the world.

Allen and I believe you have made your mark with Gabe. We have always taught him how important it is to make a positive difference in the world around him. And we have always thought he is destined for great things… because of his ability to influence and lead, and his great compassion for people. The Yeshiva experience has become part of what Gabe gives out to the world. And we believe he and we are so much better for it.

And it doesn’t hurt that a parent can reap some nachus from such a wonderful son along the way!

Allen and I look forward to meeting you in the future. Our sincerest thanks for your hard work. If we can be of any help down the road, please know we are here to assist.

Thank You!
Linda S. Herman


The Challenges Along the Way

Dear Rabbi Jacobs,

I know you will say that there are no coincidences, everything is for a reason, but I am still amazed at your timing. We just returned from Jerusalem after spending Chanukah together with our kids. Every time I get to be with [my son], and now with his growing family, my heart fills with delight and pride. It is during those days that I am reminded of the challenges we faced when [he] declared he was granted a scholarship to learn at the [xx] yeshiva in Jerusalem. My only request of [him] at the time was to think of the effect it will have on our family’s dynamics — not to try and change his mind, but rather to make sure he would be mindful of the challenges ahead. [xx] yeshiva’s approach to guiding young men to Torah was not to my liking and I went to Israel 4 months later to bring [my son] back home. [He] continued his spiritual growth at a more moderate pace with the help of the religious community in LA. It was after about a year that I realized he was ready to go back to Jerusalem where fortunately for all – my son and us — he started his learning voyage at Machon Yaakov. I do not mean to suggest that the challenges to our family’s dynamics did not materialize but I cannot imagine what it would have been without the help, guidance and dedication of Rabbi Gershenfeld and you, Rabbi Jacobs, that helped [our son] remember that family values are an inseparable part of spiritual growth. It is at the Yeshiva that [he] has continued to develop the respect for values like “Kabed at Avicha Vet Imecha” [honor your father and mother] and “ Veahavtha Lereacha Kamocha” [love your neighbor as you yourself]. I am just as pleased as I can be to see [him] trying his best to become a talmid chacham [scholar] and to be also a “mench”.

With very warm regards,


Be Careful What You Wish For

Dear Rabbi Jacobs and Rabbi Gershenfeld,

As parents, we all raise our children and dream of the path they will chart for themselves. For our oldest son, that path began with graduation from the Universityof Pennsylvania, a new job in consulting and many big ideas. We have, as a family, always been very involved in our Jewish community, and have encouraged our children to do the same; they have all been to Israel countless times. Naturally, we had always hoped for a commitment to Jewish Community and Jewish life. As the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for”.

When our son started to become more observant, and then when he made the decision to attend Machon Yaakov for two years, we were taken aback. There is that moment where you want things to stay just the way they are and you don’t even know why. I personally could not help but think about things like brainwashing and cult, and I think this was a natural and emotional reaction to what seemed to be a major change in his life’s course of events.

Being the very close family that we are, we did our best to be supportive of our son, but had reservations about his decision. In truth, the reservations came mostly from caring and uninformed friends and relatives who did not understand how this could happen to a nice Jewish boy, right? But, then, we did some serious research about the Yeshiva and the Rabbis who teach there. What we found was nothing short of amazing in the quality of the students, alumni, and Rabbis who were going to be spending this next chapter of our son’s life with him. We understood that almost all of the young men return to the USA (or wherever they are from), and go back to work or graduate school. And, most important, and most impressive is that the Rabbis are simply the most incredible people who are very bright and dedicated and balanced.

Being the crazy close family that we are, I made a trip to the Yeshiva in November and studied with my son for four days, and then we returned as a family for a week in December. What we saw on these visits only served to reinforce our positive feelings and that our son had amazing instincts in choosing Machon Yaakov for all of the right reasons. And, since then, our son was home for the Passover holidays for three weeks. So, we have spent a lot of time together and have found that he is the same person who he always was, just more observant and more knowledgeable. But, he is still the lovable, honest, caring, passionate, sports-loving, loyal kid that he was before he left. He has remained incredibly close to everyone in the family, and to all of his non-observant friends. Of our own choice, we have made a lot of adjustments to accommodate our son, including making our house more strictly kosher. We did this because we want him to be completely comfortable being home and living with us when he is in the USA. We talk by phone, and video chat on a regular basis, and we are so proud of him for his dedication and passion.

So, although this has been a big change for us, we are so happy that our son is studying with Rabbis who are so good and such caring people who are not extreme, but rather who teach the very challenging and delicate balance and family-first in their approach to observance. We love our son so much, as we always have, and always will. There are times that we are truly overwhelmed by the love and support that he has from the Rabbis at Machon Yaakov and for that and so much more, we thank you,

Sincerely yours,

Larry Halperin, MD
Boca Raton, Florida


A Different Path to Career Development

Hi Rabbi,

Just to let you know that Axxx will be joining our firm as of 5/15. Thanks for your help and feedback. In the future please keep in mind that we usually have to summer interns for a period of 7 weeks so please feel free to recommend any candidates that you think might consider a good fit for our firm.

I should share with you how much I have been impressed by the kids that have gone through your program. There is obviously a self-selection factor, in that all of them decided to “take a break” from the standard career development path to do something for their own spiritual benefit with no short term practical reward, something difficult that will require hard work, and something that in many cases requires to confront serious opposition for family members and other loved ones. However, to your credit and the credit of all the Rabbaim, I have found that Machon Yaacov graduates (including my son Jxxxx, of course) are matured beyond their age, self learners, thorough analytically, and less afraid of hard work and tough choices.

Please feel free to share this with any parent or potential employers.

All the best and thanks again

(Father of an alum; investment fund manager)