"...ליהודים היתה אורה"- A Light to the World All Year Round

GaviLankin.jpgGavi Lankin (MMY 5769)

Highland Park, New Jersey           

Growing up in Highland Park, NJ, I attended RPRY Elementary school, and Bruria high school. When the time came to settle on a seminary, my interview with Rabbi Katz and the authentic conversation I had with him convinced me to attend MMY. At MMY I learned a whole lot of Torah, and continued with my college education afterwards. My experience at MMY taught me the value of relationships, and encouraged me to go ahead and invest in a future that would be compelling an impactful. After graduating Stern College for Women with a degree in English Literature, I pursued my social work degree at Hunter College School of Social Work.

           I recently began my clinical career as a therapist in an outpatient Mental Health Clinic in the Bronx. I counsel groups, families and individuals. I Work with over 100 disadvantaged adult clients, suffering from a range of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, trauma based disorders, and psychotic disorders. I feel strongly about mental health in general; I feel it is G-d's work. But I'm finding this demographic of people to be particularly meaningful to work with. These individuals haven't gotten the same shot at life and healthcare as the average middle class US citizen. They are struggling with severe mental illness, drug addictions, and poverty, and are trapped in underprivileged and traumatized families and communities. Their trauma disorders skyrocket because they never have safety. Many of them have nobody in their lives to impact them, and so I work to build and develop relationships with my clients and assist them through their battles.

           While mental health has been my chosen professional track, I have maintained and nurtured my commitment to women in Judaism, and have prioritized making Judaism accessible to others. At Stern College, I concentrated my major in women's studies, with coursework in women in Tanakh. I spent five years working for the NJ NCSY region as a chapter advisor, managing and training staff and coordinating regional programming. After I graduated social work school, I worked as the Director of Operations and Programming for the region.

           I currently live in Washington Heights, and am a proud and active member of the Beis Community and Mt Sinai Jewish Center. Beis is a really interesting initiative started by a young couple in the heights. It began as a very old shul that was slowly petering out over the last chunk of years. Some good friends of mine were asked by the rabbi of Mt Sinai to rekindle it. With lots of investment and effort, Beis went from being a dying community of people, to one that is thriving and growing within a Halachic environment. Our objective is to engage young 20-30s Orthodox and unaffiliated Jews, by offering them new content presented in a more intriguing and innovative way. I am involved with developing the programming for the educational and Torah content. Additionally, I will soon be facilitating groups in the community to open a forum for discussion on different topics, including learning and teaching Torah and Jewish lifestyle issues. The Beis community is attracting people from a huge spectrum of backgrounds, and seems to be effectively unifying us as a nation. We are continuously seeking out new ways to engage all these demographics and populations. We ask ourselves constantly "What does it mean to be a spiritually evolving young adult Jew, and how do we help people fill their spiritual needs". I really enjoy working as part of a team to inspire creative ways to reach the hearts of all of our participants.

           MMY was an incredibly enriching and formative year in my life. On Rechov Najara, I learned Torah in a new and compelling way, developed strong friendships and relationships with teachers and madrichot (who I still am in touch with today), and had the opportunity to authentically explore my values and learn more about myself. My mentors and friends from MMY are the people in my life who consistently challenge me, encourage me to never stop thinking critically and have supported me through joyful and difficult times. The immersive environment of Torah learning and authentic connections solidified my desire to be involved with Jewish community building and helping to provide others with access to Jewish communal life.

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