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Last week, forty baal habatim from across North America travelled to Eretz Yisroel to spend time with unaffiliated college students. They learnt as well as toured the country together. In just five days, life changing relationships were made between the baal habatim and students. Fourteen students have decided to stay on at Ohr Somayach to continue pursuing their yiddishkeit due to their Mentors Mission experience.
Wine tasting, a Chaim Dovid concert, sheep herding, raft building, hot springs and ATVing were all activities that helped forge the mentor-student relationship but the learning is what really seals the deal. Discussions from the learning sessions continued into the activities as one could hear the sugya being debated in the busses, hiking through Meron and even on the ATV’s. “You boys have done more for us than we have done for you”, mentor R’ Barry Weiss tearfully stated at the farewell banquet. Shabbos in Tzefas was a real eye opener for the students as they witnessed how the beauty of yiddishkeit can be realized through seemingly mundane acts such as eating, singing and dancing. Rav Nota Schiller, Rosh Hayeshiva of Ohr Somayach pointed this out over shabbos and added that the mentors themselves are living this idea as they are engaged in seemingly mundane matters for most of their day yet they live their lives encompassing all that they do for the service of Hashem. The elevated ruach of that Shabbos in the words of many who were was- “simply indescribable”.
What is perhaps the most surprising part of the Mentors Mission is how much the mentors themselves gained from the experience. “When you have a program where baal habatim are calling you to participate, it is a testament to the experience that they know they will have on a Mission”, says Rabbi Binyomin Schonblum-Director of Mentor Missions. The combination of having a great time while at the same time having a huge impact on unaffiliated yidden is a very powerful experience. A project that was started by R’ Danny Lemberg of Lakewood, NJ more than five years ago with a handful of participants has now developed into separate summer and winter missions that are packed with Mentors and students. Mentor Missions also hosts a Lakewood Reunion Shabbaton in February and is planning many other exciting programs. Their MentorShips program builds on the relationships that were developed on the Mentors Mission and assists in keeping the mentors and students in touch through learning or just schmoozing on the phone, Shabbos invitations, campus visits to the students, newsletters and shabbatonim in various communities.
Some of the mentors have already received emails from their students where the students have accepted to not eat pork, keep Shabbos at least once every 4-6 weeks and enrolled in a yeshiva. These accomplishments came about through the mentors learning and showing a genuine concern for these students. Nothing fancy, just old fashioned learning and Ahavas Yisroel.
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