Getting to Machon Alte to enroll in one of its introductory or year-long programs isn’t always so easy, considering the travel, the commitment to spend time in the remote reaches of northern Israel and leaving one’s familiar surroundings behind. Leaving, however, for many, can even be harder.
Such was the case with Ariella Fineman, 24, one of 30 girls enrolled in the venerated women’s yeshiva’s annual summer program, which came to a close at the end of last week.
“I had high expectations and they were really fulfilled, beyond fulfilled,” said Fineman, a graduate of Binghamton University from Sharon, MA, on the eve of the last day of her nearly two-month-long stay. “It’s the connections and the bonding with people who have a similar way of looking at the world. Almost everyone has the same mindset, having decided that Chabad Lubavitch living is important to them — the niggunim, the teachings, the Rebbeim. The teachers are also very ‘with it.’ Everyone is on the same wave-length. All that support accelerates the growing process and makes it hard to leave.”
Ms. Fineman has found a creative and practical solution to her dilemma: “When I leave here, I am going home to prepare to make aliyah.” Her proposed destination in Israel for re-settlement? “Tsfat,” she said, to continue to study and enjoy the trademark calm and holy atmosphere of the city.
Avital Saffran, 22, of Santa Barbara, CA, is solving the problem another way. She came in May to check out the school, stayed for the summer session and will now continue in the program indefinitely, having become entranced not only by the curriculum, but the atmosphere of support and unity.
“The program is especially interesting because you have such a diverse crowd,” said Saffran, a Jewish Studies graduate of University of California at Santa Cruz. “Students are not only from different countries, but also are in different stages of growth in their Yiddishkeit. It’s really amazing to have everyone all come together. People who you think might know less, end up re-instilling the faith in people who have had Yiddishkeit for a while. It is an incredibly conducive environment for different kinds of people to help each other grow and truly love each other.”
This year’s summer retreat marks the 18th annual summer program for Machon Alte, founded in 1978 as the first women’s year-round yeshiva in Israel to offer beginners the full complement of Torah subjects, from the legal aspects to Jewish mysticism.
The program, as is common, played host to participants who came from locales across the Americas, Europe, Russia and Israel, aided in the U.S. by Mrs. Chaya Schurder of Chabad on Campus’s initiative that pays air fare for qualified students.
Yeshiva founders Rabbi Yosef and Mrs. Rochel Leah Rosenfeld, Director Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld, long-time summer scholars-in-residence Rabbi Eli and Mrs. Hindy Silberberg, and the entire Machon Alte staff provide an academically enriching curriculum, coupled with a personal warmth, that continually breeds success for the historic institution.
After more than three decades in operation, co-founder, Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, preparing for a final banquet planned for the eve of the closing day, said the mission, initially launched with a brocho from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, never gets routine.
“Fine wine doesn’t sour,” he said. “The longer it stands, the better it is.”
“This year was the most successful program of the last couple of years,” he said. “It was a large group and a group that was very much into learning, Baruch Hashem, until the very end. Tomorrow is the last day of the summer program, and Baruch Hashem, they don’t want to leave.”
Access the institution’s website at www.machonalte.com