My MMY~Where Are They Now?

 Rabbi-Robby-Charnoff

 

1) Good morning, Rabbi Charnoff, and Welcome to MMY! We know from our inboxes that you have joined the MMY family to concentrate on building the MMY Alumnae Dept - but we don't know you?! Please introduce yourself....

 

My pleasure! I was born and raised in New York in both Manhattan and Woodmere. After high school I spent two intense and amazing years at Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh in the Old City of Jerusalem. After that I went on to Yeshiva University where I graduated summa cum laude with a BA in psychology. My wife and I got married in our senior year of college and as soon as we graduated I went on to YU’s RIETS Gruss Kollel in Jerusalem so we could live in Eretz Israel while I began studying for semikah. By the end of the next few years I received semikah from RIETS as well as from Rav Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg, obtained a Master’s Degree from the Azrieli School of Jewish Education and Administration, and later on completed YU’s Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education. Before taking my first full time job, I served as the Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Ohab Zedek (OZ) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and was a guest lecturer and scholar-in-residence at numerous synagogues throughout the New York area. My wife and I then became the first ever OU-JLIC Co-Directors and Torah Educators at Queens College. I spent six wonderful years there building up the Orthodox student community from the ground up. By the time I left, we had established vibrant Orthodox life on campus, consistent Shabbat and holiday programming, multiple daily Torah learning opportunities, and a warm home on campus. We actively were engaging over 600 students and alumni each semester. I’m incredibly proud of what we accomplished there. Aliyah was always the goal and at that point our kids were getting older, so this past August we finally made the move to Israel! Shoshana and I, along with Aliza, Aharon, and Moshe now live in Ramat Beit Shemesh, along with many of the MMY staff. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about all that!

2) What brought you to MMY? 

They were the only ones that would hire me! No, in all seriousness, during my time at Queens College I had the great fortune of meeting and serving hundreds of alumni from many different Seminaries and Yeshivot in Israel. The MMYers always stood out from the pack with so many of them being exceptionally intelligent, highly engaged, primed for leadership, dedicated to learning, and determined to grow. They played a critical role as part our OU-JLIC student leadership teams and were active participants in many of our shiurim. Eventually I made a connection with Rabbi Katz, working with him to seamlessly funnel MMY’s Queens-bound students from MMY to OU-JLIC at Queens College and create meaningful MMY Alumnae opportunities for our MMYers on campus. Once I was making the jump to Israel, Rabbi Katz and I were immediately in touch. The rest is history…

3) Your office has some unique features - can you give us a tour? How do these items help us understand you?

We only made Aliyah a few months ago, so I haven’t gotten a chance to fully decorate yet (some of the stuff may still be in boxes…), but I do have some favorites in the office. Of course I have bunch of sefarim. I’m a seminary rabbi and I teach Hilchot Shabbat and Sefer Devarim, so I have to look frum after all. There is a picture of my family that we took around a year and a half ago in Yemin Moshe that I absolutely love. I should probably update that at some point since our youngest son wasn’t born yet! One of my favorite items is a picture that says, “I’m not here to be average, I’m here to be awesome!” I genuinely try to live by that. Speaking of things I try to live by, there is a mug that says, “Reach for the moon and if you miss you’ll still be amongst the stars.” I heard that on the radio on a car ride with my late grandfather, “Zady” Hal Stein, and when I saw it I knew I needed to keep it with me. I have a whiteboard with a To Do list of the million and a half things I’m trying to get off the ground for our incredible alumnae. It helps keep me focused and moving. And of course a little bobble-head of Baby Groot. If you’re a holy tzadekes MMY Alumna you may not know who Baby Groot is. If you are an MMY Alumna who is not a tzadekes and don’t know who Baby Groot is…I don’t even know what to say to you. For everyone else, it brings a smile to their face when they walk into my office and is a great way to casually mention that I worked as an editorial intern at Marvel comics when I was in high school. (True story!) Oh, and pink Himalayan crystal salt. Because how can you possibly start your day without a liter of water and pink Himalayan crystal salt? Really, though?

4) How do you fill your days at MMY, what are hoping to develop in the coming months?

My days are always packed. I teach the most b’kiyut Hilchot Shabbat section as well as Chumash Devarim two mornings a week. Prep and teaching for those two classes certainly takes up a chunk of time. I also feel very fortunate that students want to speak with me (though I’m not sure why). Almost every day from the beginning of lunch until the end of the break I have back to back meetings with Shana Aleph and Shana Bet students discussing meaningful life and learning issues. Being a part of their personal growth in their year in Israel is honestly one of my favorite parts of the job. Every second beyond that is filled to the brim with developing the MMY Alumnae Department. My job is to figure out how MMY should be supporting close to 2,000 alumnae from over 20 years of various ages, at various stages of life, and across multiple continents. It’s exactly the type of seemingly impossible job that I love. Right now I’m working on sifting through a ton of great ideas from my trip to America in November to get things moving for our American alumnae. (Many of which I think will benefit all of our alumnae.) I’m also gathering data on our Israel alumnae and having some preliminary phone calls with a few of them. The goal is to pull together a few group meetings in the next couple of weeks to hear directly from them what their experience is, what they want from MMY, and how we can do it. And then the British alum are on deck! Maddy and I also spent weeks reinventing our Alumnae Winter Break programming. I’m so proud of the two Yemei Iyun that are almost completely set up and can’t wait to get the details out next week and see our alumnae back here in the building in January. I also have plans to completely reimagine the MMY Alumnae Shabbaton that I’m very excited about. But I probably shouldn’t talk about that yet…

5) What is your favorite classroom story so far?

There was one day that we were learning about tochein in Hilchot Shabbos (the prohibition of grinding on Shabbos). There is an exemption referred to as ein tochein elah b’gidulei karkah, that the prohibition of grinding only applies to items that grow from the ground. In any event, I gave the example of potatoes, since obviously potatoes grow from the ground and therefore would not fall under this exemption. At that point a student raises her hand and says, “what about potato chips?” I looked at her, a little bewildered and said, “well potato chips come from potatoes, so they grow from the ground…” Then another student immediately asks, “okay, but what about French fries?” So I said, “you know that potato chips and French fries both come from potatoes, right?” And then, and I can’t make this up, a third students says, “fine, but what about baked potatoes.” At which point I realized it was a Thursday and we desperately needed Shabbat…and Chanukah vacation.

That story being an outlier, here is another one of my favorites that really speaks to how amazing that class normally is. I clearly remember my first Hilchot Shabbat class that followed seder time in the Beit Medrash. The students were freaking out that they barely understood a word of the sources. I wrote in all caps on the board, “IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY!” We spoke about how with dedication and consistent work in seder their skills would build very quickly. Now, when you tell someone that everything is going to be okay, you obviously think that in no way is anything going to be okay! So I went back to my office to update my resume. Then, to my genuine surprise, by the end of that very same week, they were already making tremendous strides in seder, looking up words, making meaning of the text, and getting through more and more sources.. It was incredible to watch and taught me just how capable these students are and how impactful seder time can be when utilized to its fullest. To me, a story like that exemplifies MMY in a certain way and reinforced for me what an amazing place MMY is to work.

 

By Tamar Dimbert, Current MMY Student

In this week’s parasha, Pharoah responds to Yosef’s interpretations of his dream by promoting him to second in command of Egypt. In addition to this honor and responsibility, Pharoah also gives Yosef a wife: אסנת בת פוטי פרע.
The commentators go to a lot of trouble to explain who Osnat really was. According to a Midrash (Pirekei D'Rabbi Eliezer, 38), she is the biological daughter of Dina born out of her capture by Shechem. Dina’s brothers didn't like Osnat, so they planned to kill her. Ya’akov discovered their plot and saved her by hiding her in a bush. She was found and brought down to Egypt where she is adopted and raised in Potifar’s household and it is through her position in there that she saves Yosef’s life; by telling Potifar the truth behind his wife’s scheme.
Rav David Luria raises a question on this Midrash: How could the brothers be capable of such cruelty, that even after all of Dina’s trauma and suffering they would plan to kill her daughter. Rav Luria explains that the brothers were able to see that Osnat was destined to be the perfect wife for Yosef. Their hatred for Yosef extended to a desire to destroy all hopes for his lineage.
But what is it about Osnat that made them such a perfect match?
Yosef was the first symbol of the Jew in Galut. Through his experiences, responses and actions; Yosef instilled into Bnei Yisrael the power to resist the overwhelming negative effects of Galut.
The passuk in Ovadiah (א:י”ח) says, “ובית יוסף להבה ולבית עשו לקש ודלקו ואכלום”. The House of Yosef will be a flame and the House of Eisav the straw, and they will burn them and consume them.
Falsehood, like a pile of straw, appears large and imposing but in reality is filled with mostly air. Truth however, seems small and insignificant yet burns with all the force and potential of a flame.
Yosef taught us how to use the fire of emet to fight against the darkness of Galut. It was from the depths of falsehood that Yosef shone and flourished, and it was from those very same depths that Osnat emerged. She was the product of a terrible traume and raised in a house of loose morals and corruption. One could easily look at her situation and think that nothing good could come from these moments, yet Osnat not only continues Yosef’s lineage in the future, but saves his life, allowing all the events for the eventual redemption to fall into place.
But that is not all: there is a concept that every major event in Jewish History has a corollary event in the Torah. Rav Gedaliah Schorr, (Sefer Ohr Gedaliyahu),  suggests that the precursory story for Chanukah was the rape of Dina by Shechem. The entire celebration of Chanukah is to commemorate the Jews ability to withstand an attack to our entire morality system. But even from this dark time period in history, some good emerged. A single jug of oil was hidden for us to find and Hashem performed a great miracle for us.  
The power of Yosef is that of the lone spark setting the wheat ablaze, the light fighting against the power of the darkness-so to is the power of Chanukah. The Mishna tells us, (Bava Kama 6.6) that a person who leaves his candle outside is responsible to pay damages if a camel carrying flax walks by and flax goes up in flames. However, if that flame is the חנוכה candles, he need not pay. If we want to burn up the wheat of Eisav or the flax of Galut we must do it through the spark of Yosef and the light of Chanukah.

 

FOOD EFFECT cover

Michelle Braude, MMY 5765

I was always an ambitious child who wanted to be ‘a TV presenter or surgeon’ (as expressed in my primary school, thereby gaining many adult laughs), and I had my mind set on going to MMY from the moment I heard about it.

When I began researching seminaries at the age of 16, the overwhelming view on MMY was that it was “the best”, “the most academic” and “the most challenging with the highest level of learning” but also that it was “the warmest” and “the friendliest” (which was certainly true!) With that, along with many positive views on its well-grounded halachic and Zionist hashkafa, I knew it was where I wanted to go.

I went to a high school in London that is not renowned for its Jewish studies, textual skills, or very much Jewish learning at all. To say I was putting myself up for a challenge was an understatement! When it came to do the exam for MMY, it was more challenging than my final year A-levels (English end of high school exams) but I battled through and gave it my best.

When I arrived at MMY, the Rabbis, teachers and fellow students were overwhelmingly kind and supportive, and would do anything to give of their time and assistance. I spent most nights staying up until the early hours of the morning learning, only to wake up early, daven, and head down to the beit midrash armed with a giant coffee, ready and eager to start the day again. (In hindsight this was probably good training for my years as a medical student! And, I still start the day with a GIANT coffee!!)

I loved every minute of it – I worked incredibly hard, and thankfully caught up on my textual skills in a matter of weeks, thanks to the help of all those around me. MMY creates an environment where studying hard is not a burden or a pressure; it comes as a result of a true love of learning and Yiddishkeit. I also made friendships that have lasted until today, 13 years on!

Following my time at MMY, I went on to study medicine at UCL (University College London) medical school. I graduated as a medical doctor in 2012, and also completed a BSc degree in Nutrition (at Kings College London) during my medical studies.

Alongside my love for Torah Judaism and medicine, I always loved things all things health, food and nutrition. Being born in sunny South Africa, where healthy eating and good food are a way of life, I’ve also always had a passion for delicious food and cooking (spending Shabbats at many of the MMY teachers fuelled this love, as their food was all DELICIOUS and they were all amazing cooks!). After graduating from medicine in 2012, I started The Food Effect, my own innovative nutrition consultancy practice. At the time, my only plan was utilising the knowledge I had from studying medicine and nutrition, to be a good nutritionist for a finite time before returning to being a doctor. I never dreamt that I would start a blog and revolutionary approach to food and eating that would help so many people and become my full-time career.

The Food Effect has now thankfully expanded into a brand, lifestyle and philosophy in and of itself, thanks to my work, success of my clients, my website and blog, and most recently my book called The Food Effect Diet, which came out in January (2018) and was also serialized by The Times UK.

Starting my own business was no easy feat. I had to learn everything from scratch. I’d spent all my years since high school either at a seminary or as a medical student in an NHS hospital. I had absolutely no idea about anything business related. I simply gave it a go and learnt along the way – despite many people telling me I was “crazy” and it wouldn’t work out.

Despite the above, I can honestly say one of my greatest achievements was getting into MMY and everything I gained from my year there. The struggle to get in and succeed at such a high level seminary coming from such a “low-level” background, gave me the confidence to know that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

My time and the skills developed at MMY, no doubt helped tremendously in my career as a doctor and nutritionist, and in life as a whole. The whole ethos and environment taught me empathy for others, being used to hard work and long hours, and not accepting things at face value but rather gaining a deeper understanding of all knowledge through learning in a critical and analytical way.

Whether you’re in MMY already, or considering applying, my message to you is that you should ‘go for it’ and work hard. If you never try, you’ll never know. MMY not only gave me a year filled with true simcha and fulfilment, it also gave me a grounding in halacha, the desire to continue my learning, and love of Torah to last me a lifetime.

 

FOOD EFFECT cover 

 Dr. Michelle Braude, founder of The Food Effect www.thefoodeffect.co.uk

 Instagram: @thefoodeffectdr https://www.instagram.com/thefoodeffectdr/

 The Food Effect Diet Book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Food-Effect-Diet-Weigh-Better/dp/034941582X

Thanksgiving

By, Odelia Glausiusz

This November, I experienced Thanksgiving dinner at MMY. As I was born and raised in England I, along with my fellow Brits looked on with some bemusement at the excitement that was growing around the halls. Not all the the traditions and language of the festival were entirely new to me, some elements of Thanksgiving have made their way across the pond. I knew there was a big meal and, of course, we have Black Friday sales!  But the fervour that was building in the halls of MMY baffled us. Girls spoke longingly about the huge family dinners back home, of the turkey and pumpkin pie they were missing. To be honest, it reminded me of the reverence surrounding Christmas!

Walking into the chadar ochel on Thursday, this perspective was only extended. Luckily, one of the tables was reserved for all 'internationals', allowing us to observe (read: make fun of these strange traditions.)

When we started the meal with challah rolls we thought they'd really gone too far. This was starting to resemble a Yom Tov meal.

But, being MMY, a Torah core began to present itself, and I finally understood -  this was going to be a Thanksgiving celebrated from a Jewish perspective, the dinner started and ended with Divrei  Torah. Before we ate, Shalhevet Abenaim spoke about the idea of gratitude, of being thankful for the bad experiences in life as well as the good ones, and how looking at life through this lens can allow you to become a much more appreciative person. The lesson I took from her words is that whilst suffering is an intrinsic aspect of life, we can choose how to respond to it, how to let that experience change us.

Shoshana Rockoff spoke about the nature of the Korban Todah. The Korban is made up of a whole cow and 40 loaves of bread. No one can eat an entire cow as well as 40 loaves of bread by themselves – this is a meal which must be shared with others. It was a way of publicizing the value of thanking Hashem and thus emphasized the very importance of gratitude – this is not a concept to nurse inwardly, but rather is one which should be shared, an idea which everyone should be aware of. Hearing both these Divrei Torah made me realise that the root of Thanksgiving, which is not always conveyed in all the hype and commercials, is simply in the name. Whilst we should be thankful to G-d every day, dedicating a day to the importance of this may not be such a bad thing after all.

After the meal, we played a game of Kahoot, followed by a game of 'Escape the Room', MMY style. We were split into groups, and each group was assigned a room. We had to first find the questions which the Thanksgiving Committee (yes, there was a Thanksgiving Committee) had taken joy in hiding particularly well. The twist was, we had to find answers to these cryptic questions in sefarim. Like all the learning in MMY, this was a source based challenge and I have to admit, I helped more with finding the questions than figuring out their answers! Still, they say every little helps and our team ended up winning! We're still waiting for our 'mystery prize', but truthfully, it was amazing to see everyone really work together as a team to work through the challenge.

And so, I am willing to begrudgingly change my perspective. I don’t think I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving next year, but I definitely gained a lot from participating this year, and I'd like to take this opportunity to extend thanks to the Americans for sharing their much revered holiday with the rest of us.  

 

Share some highlights from the past month at MMY!

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With thanks to Rabbi Dani Abell for putting together this wonderful reflection of the past month! Time flies when you are having fun! #Shavousistommorow!

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