The Torah School of Excellence
Rabbi avRaham TanzeR
Rabbi LauRence PeRez
Rabbi doRon PodLashuk
inTRoducTion MAKING A DIFFERENCE
“This publication is about people making an exceptional difference. Game changers. It is about Yeshiva College - a school playing a pivotal role in producing and partnering with such people. The individuals profiled in this publication are Yeshiva College graduates, from different generations and genders.”
One factor unites the eight people profiled in this publication: Yeshiva College. They are committed to the Yeshiva value system of Torah learning and living, which infuses their lives. Their unique contribution in diverse areas of Jewish and human endeavours has made a significant impact: whether in Israel or South Africa; in communities or corporates; Rabbinic or lay leadership; the humanities or the sciences; or in business and education. Since the inception of Yeshiva College, almost sixty years ago, approximately two thousand graduates are “making a difference”. The eight individuals profiled in this publication in many ways represent all our graduates. They offer an outstanding sample of the collective whole. For some this journey began at Yeshiva College almost five decades ago when the campus consisted of less than fifty young men. For others it began more recently. For many it is yet to commence. The end goal though, has always been the same - to take the ethos imbibed, knowledge gained and experience acquired at Yeshiva College and to become creative, proactive agents of positive transformation wherever they find themselves. The first game changer is Yeshiva’s towering Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Avraham Tanzer. For almost fifty years of remarkable commitment, along with his dear wife Mrs Marcia Tanzer and their family, the Rosh Yeshiva has indelibly transformed the educational and religious landscape of the South African Jewish community. The leadership of our beloved Rosh Yeshiva has been a constant during the last fifty years of growth at Yeshiva College. In a life of extraordinary contribution, Yeshiva College has grown from humble beginnings to a campus today comprising over 930 students across five schools from playschool to high school. The second individual profiled, Rabbi Laurence Perez is perhaps our crowning success story, where one of our “own” returns to give back. Symbolising as it does a large dose of hakarat hatov - gratitudefor the difference his Yeshiva education bestowed on him. There is no greater tribute to our success, than when our own graduate assumes a leadership position in our school, recognising as it does his willingness to actively further our quest to
continue to improve and grow the success story from within. Yeshiva College is fortunate Rabbi Perez assumed the role of Managing Director of Yeshiva four years ago to partner with us and the Rosh Yeshiva “Lehagdil Torah Ule Ha’adira” - for the sake of Torah. His dynamism, vision and dedication bodes well for the current and future generations, who continue to prefer Yeshiva as their school of choice. We look forward to his inspired role in continuing to “make a difference”. In the coming pages you will meet a few individuals who are also making a difference – some of them living in Israel and others in South Africa: Neville Berkman, lives in Yerushalayim and is a Professor and Department Head at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem; Howard Feldman, co-founder and Chairman of Metalmin Minerals and Chairman of the Board of the South African Jewish Report; Ilanit Gerson, educational counsellor of Yeshiva College Girls High School and currently studying a Masters programme in Educational Psychology; Wendy Kahn, Director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies; Meir Perez, lecturer of Bio Medical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand who has also recently completed his PhD. in this field; and Rabbi Doron Podlashuk, founder of our Beit Mordechai Yeshiva College Campus Kollel and now the founder and Director of The Torah and Zionist Leadership Institute in Yerushalayim. Their stories reflect the Yeshiva College story, and their choices and values encompass the Yeshiva College value system. We thank them all for participating in this publication and salute them for continuing to make a difference.
Mr Israel Bender Chairman Board of Governors
â€œA Torah education is more than education. It has the potential of being a life changing experience.â€?
Rabbi avRaham TanzeR LIFE CHANGER
A Torah education has the innate spiritual power to shape the personality and character of a person, as we believe it is “the word of Hashem given to Moshe at Mount Sinai”. “A Torah education is more than education. It has the potential of being a life changing experience.” This is the perspective Rabbi Avraham Chaim Tanzer brought with him in 1963 when he arrived in South Africa, with his wife Marcia Tanzer, and their three young children. He infused the foundations of Yeshiva College with this perspective. And its essence has remained entrenched ever since.
“We have always had the privilege of dedicated people and a gifted staff. Today I am surrounded by a younger generation and I am truly inspired by the work they are doing every day to cultivate and develop the aims and goals we set for ourselves.” Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Rabbi Tanzer studied at the Yeshiva Torah Ve-da’as and the famous Telz Yeshiva in Clevelend, from 1950 – 1963. At age 27, he arrived in Johannesburg to fulfil the dream of the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva College, Rabbi Dr M Kossowsky – to build a Torah school in South Africa. Rabbi Tanzer and his wife agreed to stay for two years, and never left. In 1963, the ‘Yeshiva College’ consisted of a boys’ high school comprising fifty pupils and a hostel for country students. There was no feeder school, no nursery school, no primary school, and no real “natural constituency” who required a Torah school.
Despite this, from these ‘humble beginnings’, as Rabbi Tanzer describes them, an ever-growing Torah school emerged, one steeped in his pervasive view of how a Torah education can make a difference. A school that would forever bear testimony to his affinity for people and his innate ability to touch the souls of everyone he meets. At the time of Rabbi Tanzer’s arrival, following Angola’s independence from Portugal, a strong sense of uncertainty pervaded the continent. “Was the time right to create a new Torah school?” Rabbi Tanzer asked Rabbi Kossowsky, to which he replied: “Our job is to build now”. So Rabbi Tanzer did. And he has continued to do so for almost five decades. In an article published in the South African Zionist Record one week after Rabbi Tanzer arrived in the country, when questioned about his vision, he expounded the aims for the school: “to see Yeshiva College grow, both in scope and in the number of students, and to produce a generation of Torahconscious Jews, who will inspire the whole community by their example.” As a Yeshiva student Rabbi Tanzer understood the challenge was to inculcate in young Jews an appreciation of Yiddishkeit, regardless of their background. “Achieving this entails recognising where people come from, so you can talk to them appropriately,” he explains. “When you place yourself in someone else’s shoes, the discussion becomes a conversation rather than a monologue.” This outlook and spirit of engagement enthused people. And continues to do so today. “When a person knows you care about them, they respond seriously.” Rabbi Tanzer also founded the Glenhazel Shul in the school hostel dining hall in 1963, and has shaped it into a solid, vibrant community. Torah principles endure throughout time. As such at Yeshiva College the basic limudei kodesh – Torah studies - learning has remained the same since its inception, as Torah is eternal. “This reflects the school’s ability to apply Torah in the current world, where it has meaning for our students and where it provides a blueprint for life,” – an
approach that epitomises how the “go-ahead methods of the modern American educator blend with the modesty of the traditional talmid chacham,” as Rabbi Tanzer’s teaching philosophy has been described in the Zionist Record. He embodies the dual talents of teacher and spiritual leader, one who exemplifies the synthesis between Torah teachings and worldly perceptions. His sense of humour and geniality have enabled him to create rapport with students and congregants and he understands the importance of how people should relate to one another to create a better world. “By definition a talmid chacham is someone whose personality expresses his learning. One who studies Torah seriously, will become spiritual too,” he says. “This learning is far removed from ego and encourages a sensitivity and love for every Jew. These are the people we call leaders.” “And these are the leaders we are striving to nurture at Yeshiva College.” “We have always had the privilege of dedicated people and a gifted staff. Today I am surrounded by a younger generation and I am truly inspired by the work they are doing every day to cultivate and develop the aims and goals we set for ourselves.”
â€œYeshiva College enables its students to value their dreams and life ambitions while at the same time empowering them to assume personal responsibility for their lives as Torah Jews committed to service and contributionâ€?.
Rabbi LauRence PeRez MANAGING DIRECTION Class of 1988 Undoubtedly two events I experienced as a Standard 8 Yeshiva College student shaped me into who I am today. The first occurred on Mafikeng Road more than 25 years ago. Herman Charles Bosman, arguably South Africa’s greatest short story writer, in his famous book “Mafikeng Road”, revealed the reality of the Afrikaner life in the late 1900’s through the eyes of his ingenious storyteller Oom Schalk Lourens. A hundred years later I too uncovered a reality deep in the bushveld on the way to Mafikeng - a personal revelation of what Yeshiva College means to me. At the time my classmate Yossi Techelet and I were on the way to Mafikeng to conduct the services for the yamim noraim - the High Holy Days. Every year during the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur period, many Yeshiva College High School learners left their families in order to assist the country communities. Increasingly members of these Jewish communities were moving to the urban centres of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Numbers were dwindling so severely that most of these communities did not have a Rabbi and they battled to hold daily or weekly services. The yamim noraim were different, of course, as a minyan somehow always came together. The challenge, however, was to find appropriate people to run the service – lead the davening, provide the sermons, blow the shofar and lein the relevant Torah readings. The Yeshiva College senior High School boys were skilled at performing these duties. So off we went, year in and year out, all over South Africa to assist the country communities. For Yossi and I it was Mafeking one year and Queenstown the next. Many other Yeshiva College graduates have their own country community stories. What dawned upon me in 1986 on Mafikeng Road was how Yeshiva College was transforming me. At a young age I had to learn how to be a shaliach tzibur - leader of the davening - knowing the special tunes for the yamim noraim. I had to be able to blow the shofar, prepare sermons, read from the Torah and perhaps most importantly learn the value of service - of outreach - at a time in the Jewish calendar when most people focus inward. Yeshiva College taught its students to put the needs of others above their own. All at once I seemed to experience a multitude of intrinsic
Yeshiva College values: studying and teaching Torah, serving as a shaliach tzibur, assuming leadership roles, investing in the ethic of community and taking personal responsibility for our fellow Jews. My second experience took place during the same year. I come from a keen sporting family, from parents and grandparents who played high level provincial sport. I too love sport and played extensively. As my parents became more observant they persuaded my siblings and I to attend Yeshiva College. I moved to Yeshiva College in Standard 6 and continued to play sport both at a school and club level. However, all this changed one fateful day that year when I badly injured my knee during Maccabi soccer trials – an injury that required surgery and a six month recuperation.
“The Yeshiva College offering integrates the spiritual and secular, modern and traditional, religious and Zionist, new and old, individual and community, and local and global.” It seemed clear during this period that I would not be able to pursue any serious career in sport. During my recovery I made two personal discoveries that would have an indelible effect. Firstly, I began learning mishnayot off by heart as part of a unique programme offered then (and still offered today) at Yeshiva College. This not only filled the many months spent in bed with meaningful learning but initiated a lifelong intellectual curiosity, in general, and a thirst for Torah learning. In particular, I decided then to continue studying Torah for at least a year in a post high school Yeshiva in Israel. Secondly, I developed a love for medicine and healing and felt a great affinity to these professions. I witnessed firsthand the major role doctors and therapists played in my personal recovery.
In short - I had developed a love of Torah learning and a desire to bring healing to the world. This dual fascination is in essence the story of Yeshiva College; the story of a school which enables its learners and graduates to choose any vocation that they wish while at the same time nurturing a love of Torah learning and living. This love drew me to spend a year at a Yeshiva in Israel while waiting to attend medical school. A year became two, and two became, many more and Baruch Hashem, a life thus far of commitment to a Rabbinic and educational calling. These two stories exemplify the unique privilege of a Yeshiva College education and all it encompasses: a love of learning and living Torah; a sense of service to the Jewish community and Am Yisrael; a deep and affectionate devotion to and appreciation of Eretz Yisrael and the State of Israel; and a sense of social consciousness. Yeshiva College enables its students to value their dreams and life ambitions while at the same time empowering them to assume personal responsibility for their lives as Torah Jews committed to service and contribution. At Yeshiva College, I have learned the importance of making a difference in the world. While the context of our existence makes it easy to become preoccupied in self, with aspirations rooted in what they will do for me, our role, however, is to harness our talents, our passions, and our intellectual and emotional assets, and work towards contributing to causes greater than ourselves. As managing director I am passionate about nurturing in our students Yeshiva College’s broad, inclusive values, and inculcating the principles of a holistic and all-encompassing approach to life, integrating the spiritual and secular, modern and traditional, religious and Zionist, new and old, individual and community, and local and global. Torah values transcend time. Our job at Yeshiva College is to ensure our students leave with these values so they live a life characterised by learning, wisdom and making a difference.
â€œEducation is much more about what you see or show, than what you say. It therefore needs to entail self-development in a way that enables you to contribute to those around you.â€?
neviLLe beRkman PROFESSOR FOR THE PEOPLE Class of 1978 The beautiful and historic Jerusalem forms the perfect backdrop for Neville and Karin Berkman. Professor Berkman, who is the Head of Invasive Pulmonology at the Institute of Pulmonary Medicine at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and his wife Karin, who teaches and is currently completing her doctorate in Literature at Hebrew University, made Aliyah in 1986 to fulfil their unwavering desire to live in Israel. Resolute Zionists and embodying a staunch sense of community, the Berkmans are living their dream. With their four children, the Berkman’s life in Jerusalem mirrors that of the city itself: rich in culture, religious commitment and
After completing his medical degree at the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, Neville specialised in pulmonology and undertook two years of research at Brompton Hospital in London. He then made Aliyah and has worked at Hadassah hospital for twenty-five years. “Yeshiva set high academic standards and there was a definitive pursuit of excellence,” he says, alluding to teachers who taught more than the syllabus. “The school provided a broad educational perspective where we were exposed to experiences and insights beyond the confines of the curriculum,” an approach that should not be taken for granted, he says.
“Our education at Yeshiva College encompassed four key aspects: Torah, learning, Israel and community.” comprising a strong sense of community. They have always known this is where they wanted to be, and where they wanted their children to grow up. Their Zionist seeds were planted and cultivated many years ago at Yeshiva College. Neville Berkman attended Yeshiva College from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and truly witnessed the campus’ beginnings. He has seen its growth and felt its impact throughout his life. “The school’s agenda at the time was dat - religious commitment - and Torah. There was little available in this regard in terms of schooling,” says Neville, explaining how Rabbi Tanzer significantly influenced the introduction of dat into a school curriculum and ethos. “I did not come from a frum – religious - background. Yeshiva College played a role in inspiring people to become more dati - religious” he says. The school’s association with Bnei Akiva facilitated this transformation with many students becoming involved in the youth movement, including Neville, who later became its national chairman. His family was also enthused by the school, and became active in its development, becoming involved on committees and the PTA.
A small, intimate school – in Neville’s matric class there were only eight boys and five girls (including Karin) – everyone did everything, regardless of how skilled or talented they were. “If there was a cricket match, everyone played. We all took part in debates or plays. This intimacy nurtured a sense of camaraderie based on inclusion.” This philosophy of what it means to be part of a community – and to connect with others in a meaningful way - was a fundamental principle at Yeshiva College, one that certainly has remained. Neville and Karin’s friendships formed at school have endured over time and across continents. The importance of such connections and a sense of community resonate strongly with the Berkmans, who live this value each day in their professional and personal lives. “In a vocation such as medicine, for me there exists an inherent desire to work within society and to contribute to the community,” Neville says. Neville and Karin are role models to their children who emulate this ideal. Their daughter, who coordinates Bnei Akiva within their community, also completed an 18-month programme in an underprivileged community as part of her studies.
The Berkmans were students of Rabbi Tanzer who they regard as “an astounding man” and Mrs Tanzer who passionately taught Jewish history. The pursuit of Torah knowledge did not occur at the expense of secular studies. Neville remembers the school as providing a liberal humanist education, one that remained cognisant of global events. Openness and anti-insularity characterised the teaching approach where a sense of liberalism flowed into secular subjects too. The school did not shy away from recruiting teachers who were different – as long as they excelled in their role. Karin remembers her English teacher as “influential, somewhat of a maverick, conveying literature as something with value – something that can inform how you live your life. He instilled in me a definitive love for the subject, which has undoubtedly influenced my career path.” The free-thinking and broad-minded culture influenced how students viewed their own education. “This was unique and important – and it should be preserved,” Neville says. “Education is much more about what you see or show, than what you say. It therefore needs to entail self-development in a way that enables you to contribute to those around you.” “Our education at Yeshiva College encompassed four key aspects: Torah, learning, Israel and community,” he says, elements which he and his family incorporate into their daily lives, thereby exemplifying what it means to be a Torah Jew.
â€œ.. interpersonal skills and the ability to engage with people from diverse backgrounds are critical success factors in business - and in life,â€?
howaRd FeLdman BUSINESS LEADER Class of 1986 The view from Howard Feldman’s office – an expansive vista of Johannesburg’s leafy tree-topped skyline – is apt for a man who has reached great heights and who sees a world of possibility. He co-founded and is the current Chairman of Metalmin Minerals, a commodity trading company that exports ores and metals from southern Africa to China, India and other countries. He is also the Chairman of the Board of the South African Jewish Report. These two roles capture his work ethic and how one can apply it in a broader community context. After matriculating from Yeshiva College in 1986, Howard completed a BA and LLB. He married Heidi and joined a family business that operated in the mining sector.
He strongly recognises the significance of making a financial contribution to a community, but he also knows there are other ways to create a positive impact. And these are equally critical. Consequently he recently accepted an honorary position as Chairman of the Board of the South African Jewish Report, the only Jewish weekly newspaper. “This position has been both stimulating and daunting,” he admits “And I look forward to being able to make the difference that I believe I should.” The Jewish Report reflects the importance of communication, relationships, tolerance, Zionism and Torah – values Howard says he experienced at Yeshiva College as a student, and continues to do so now as a parent of children at the school. He loved the
“... passion has to be part of what you strive to achieve each day. I tell my children: really love what you do. Take hold of the opportunities that come your way, and make them happen if they don’t.” “I became fascinated and attracted to the world of international trade, currency trading, the movement of material, warehousing, shipping, and supplier and customer relationships,” he says. To advance his career, he moved with his family to New York where he was involved with a commodity exchange. “I loved living in an exciting, truly global city. But after some time Heidi and I realised that our family needed family. We also felt South Africa presented immense opportunity. So we returned five years after leaving.” This was a pivotal moment in his professional development. “South Africa and its people are unique. I wanted to harness the special energy that emanates through the country,” he says, admitting that although it was a difficult change, the experience has made a positive impact in their lives. With most of their family living in walking distance from each other, they feel blessed to enjoy the closeness that ensues from being together. His emphasis on connectedness extends to the South African Jewish community.
campus’ environment from the moment he arrived in Grade 5. “The camaraderie was unlike anything I had felt. And it continued beyond matric, as the friendships we forged during our high school years developed and endured.” “These interpersonal skills and the ability to engage with people from diverse backgrounds are critical success factors in business - and in life,” says Howard, explaining how he developed these qualities at Yeshiva College where pupils were involved in varying activities, all of which exposed them to different people and situations. From drama and public speaking, to working on The Yeshivite Magazine, to fulfilling the role of head boy (a position his eldest son also held) Howard’s school years comprised abundant opportunities for interaction. Through this he learned the value of contribution – of what it means to be involved, of how people can make an impact in the community and why it is important to accept and welcome diversity.
Each day Howard applies the values he embraced while at Yeshiva College. “My business requires me to work with people of various nationalities, religions and cultures. My school experience equipped me well. It allowed me to understand who I was, which also enabled me to appreciate others who were different.” A unique, enduring energy characterised Howard’s time at Yeshiva College – one that he says is still evident today. “I feel so blessed my children have had the opportunity to develop in the Yeshiva environment. It is a gift and it comes with a sacred approach to education: children are taught to think and are encouraged to question. They understand what it means to care for others and they appreciate the role of Hashem in our lives.” “Learning is holistic, combining Torah and general studies in a positive and lifeaffirming way.” His close relationship with the Rosh Yeshiva enhanced his limudei kodesh – Torah studies. Rabbi Tanzer remains a mentor and leader for past and present pupils and families associated with Yeshiva College. “He exerted a natural influence through his wisdom, insight and ability to connect with everyone, no matter where they came from,” he says. This emphasis on individuality filtered into fostering students’ sense of self-belief. “We were nurtured and consequently developed into the people we wanted to be, rather than the people someone else thought we should become. I still see this, and it is so comforting.” Uncovering a sense of self contributes to one’s success, he says, alluding to fellow graduates who have become esteemed Rabbis, doctors, business people, and teachers. Their achievements are testimony to Yeshiva College’s ability to uncover talents and foster skills. “But passion has to be part of what you strive to achieve each day. I tell my children: really love what you do. Take hold of the opportunities that come your way, and make them happen if they don’t. Have faith in Hashem, remain positive and spirited and most importantly, work hard. There really is no substitute.”
“My memories as a student of Yeshiva include experiences and close interactions with mentors and teachers beyond the classroom walls ... having mentors like this can significantly alter one’s school experience. This nurturing culture in which children can thrive remains evident at Yeshiva today.”
iLaniT GeRson COMMITTED COUNSELLOR Class of 1998 It may appear as if Ilanit Gerson is retracing her footsteps as she walks the corridors of Yeshiva College Girls’ High School each day. However, this young woman’s mission differs somewhat from the one she pursued when she entered the school as a Grade 7 student in 1993. While several tenets remain the same - knowledge acquisition, Torah learning, a love for Israel, development and making a difference - she no longer dons school shoes and her stride reflects that of someone who has found her passion and is focused on enhancing the lives of the youthful girls who walk where she once did. When Ilanit entered Yeshiva College, she warmed to it immediately. “I saw a happy environment,” she says. Her first impression was a lasting one. And as she progressed through school, she experienced Yeshiva as a place where diversity was cherished and embraced. “Yeshiva has space for everyone.” This is what she loved when she joined the school, and it’s what she still loves – a feeling that contributed to her decision to return to Yeshiva Girls High School as a school counsellor. With an honours degree in Educational Psychology, Ilanit’s unquenchable desire to acquire knowledge is evident in her current enrolment in a Masters in Educational Psychology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as well as a concurrent enrolment at Yeshiva University’s postgraduate certificate programme for guidance counsellors. Post-matric, Ilanit attended a leading seminary in Israel whilst simultaneously completing a teacher’s diploma. She headed the Informal Education department and taught limudei kodesh at a Jewish High School. In addition, she acquired a BCom in computer programming and industrial psychology at UJ, and then a post-graduate certificate in education. Ilanit chose to work at Yeshiva College as she regards it as a place where the team of professionals who staff it are passionate about what they do, where they see a bigger picture, where the “small stuff” does not detract from the overall vision, and where change is neither feared nor avoided. The programmes Ilanit implements in her role as a counsellor bear testimony to this. “I am continually modifying and enriching our projects and initiatives. The school is
always very proactive and forward thinking and supports me in applying every aspect of every programme.”
participated in inter-school debating and acted as a role model representing the Yeshiva ethos.
To help children cope with age specific social and developmental challenges, Ilanit works closely with students in groups and individually, providing counselling and developing and facilitating programmes relating to peer pressure, drug abuse, healthy and unhealthy relationships, career choices, and bullying, among others. Her position encompasses: working within the classroom environment; offering emotional support, trauma debriefing and behavioural counselling to students; and educating teenagers to make positive choices. She also supports and collaborates closely with her fellow teachers. Her nurturing demeanour and notable contribution to the lives of her students means there is a constant queue outside her door.
She reminisces fondly of Frank Samuels, her principal, and Morah Marcia Tanzer, who showed immense interest in her development, consciously making time to talk with her, offer advice, guide and stretch her beyond her comfort zone. “They were concerned with more than just the achievement of good grades; they considered content too: what I was doing, why I was doing it and how I felt,” she explains. “Having mentors like this can significantly alter one’s school experience. The staff may have changed but this nurturing culture in which children can thrive is evident at Yeshiva today.”
“My memories as a student of Yeshiva include experiences and close interaction with mentors and teachers beyond the classroom walls,” she says, alluding specifically to Kfar HaRaeh, a Grade 10 Yeshiva College-Bnei Akiva leadership
“The school is always very proactive and forward thinking and supports me in applying every aspect of every programme.” programme in Israel. “It was defining,” she says. “Not only in terms of the knowledge acquired but also in terms of the friendships made. We lived and learned in Israel for four months.” Yeshiva’s focus on fostering leadership skills among students was mirrored with a culture of giving back, explains Ilanit. “Grades 11 and 12 encompassed myriad opportunities to contribute to others’ development, to create and implement programmes within the school, and to be accountable as leaders.” Her position as head girl also provided a means of selfgrowth as she spoke publicly for the school,
Enduring friendships are also embedded in the Yeshiva experience – an experience that promotes community in numerous ways. This staunch sense of interconnection influenced Ilanit’s decision to work at Yeshiva. “This community helps create who you are. As students we actively became advocates for Israel, we participated in community events and over time the feeling of connection for each other and our heritage has become part of our identity.” This sense of knowing who you are is paramount to personal success, however this is defined, says Ilanit. Self-awareness is an integral element. As a counsellor she encourages parents to cultivate emotional intelligence and personal growth in their children. “I was encouraged to develop myself through daily exposure to role models and by watching others and learning from them. Rabbi Tanzer always told us “you find greatness in everyone around you”. This thought remains with Ilanit where each day, as a counsellor, she fulfils her mandate in a non-judgemental, empathic and sensitive manner – an approach she experienced herself as a student walking the same corridors.
â€œWe have an opportunity to make a difference, and we need to find ways we can feel part of South Africa, .... for Jews, South Africa is an amazing country in terms of the civil rights, religious freedom and religious rights we have.â€?
wendy kahn COMMUNITY LEADER Class of 1988 When anti-Semitic antics diminish the South African Jewish community’s sense of religious freedom and security, comfort is taken in the now familiar presence of a resolute advocate for protection, collaboration and the pursuit of peace. Wendy Kahn’s always calm, always informed and always insightful comments – whether on the radio, in print media, or in person – remind South African Jews how privileged they are to have her as the leader of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). Wendy Kahn is the national director of the SAJBD, and facilitates crucial interaction between the South African Jewish community and broader South African civil society. Her mandate encompasses liaising with government and the media, monitoring and responding to anti-Semitism, coordinating anti-discrimination efforts (such as those implemented during the xenophobic attacks), responding to global
focuses on how the SAJBD connects with government at all levels, from city councils to the office of the President. Her passion for her current position is fuelled by several elements: a deep love for South Africa, its people and the country’s potential; a keen understanding of the importance of engaging in the broader South African context; and recognition of the meaningful role of South African Jewry. “We have an opportunity to make a difference, and we need to find ways we can feel part of South Africa” she says. “For Jews, South Africa is an amazing country in terms of the civil rights, religious freedom and religious rights we have.” Rights she believes we must be aware of and cherish. Wendy says Yeshiva College instilled this sense of appreciation for one’s rights – and by implication the responsibilities inherent in those rights – from a young age. “Yeshiva
“It is a school with soul, where a compassionate value system recognises the innate worth of every child.” Jewish crises and working closely with the South African Holocaust and Genocide centre on Holocaust commemoration. The diversity of such a portfolio calls for great leadership – skills which Wendy has fortified over time, starting with her work at Eskom, where she focused on leadership development. Wendy’s leadership experience contributed to her success as one of the founders of the He’atid Leadership Programme, an organisation she led for 13 years. With a focus on shared learning, through this programme South Africans visit Israel and other developing countries, where they acquire a first-hand understanding of the complexity of living in a developing country – knowledge that has undoubtedly played a role in Wendy’s accomplishments at the SAJBD. Wendy joined the SAJBD as an elected leader in 2002, and was appointed national director five years ago. Each day she
taught me to have an understanding and awareness of community and what being part of a community entails,” says Wendy. “Support and giving back, in the good times – the joys, the excitement and achievement – and in the bad.” Wendy has been a proud member of the Yeshiva College community for thirty years, first as a student and now as a parent. From her beginning steps when she learnt to recognise an Aleph, to gaining insight into and developing a love of her heritage and culture, Yeshiva College nurtured her. “It is a school with soul, where a compassionate value system recognises the innate worth of every child.” Along with a staunch sense of community, Yeshiva College always valued leadership. “We were encouraged to show initiative, assume responsibility and take risks,” she explains. “Role models demonstrated how to do this and teachers provided direction.”
In conjunction with efforts to foster independence, Yeshiva simultaneously created a sense of security among students. “I never felt a sense of being lost in a big environment. I developed in a safe space where I could experiment with ideas and thoughts. This kind of security fosters confidence too.” “Within this haven each child was recognised as an individual,” she adds. “We did not have to excel in a particular area to receive acknowledgment. So we did everything (from RAPS plays to Bible Quiz, from netball to public speaking) and emerged with a well-rounded education. This provided an amazing sense of balance, which I believe is crucial in the sphere of leadership and life.” “Within the boundaries necessary in any school, we maintained the freedom to grow in our own way in terms of our strengths,” says Wendy. “And this is why graduates succeed. Freedom and responsibility combine to foster an internal locus of control which is necessary for someone to develop in order to take charge of their career and life’s direction.” For Wendy a strong understanding of Yiddishkeit and an ensuing natural will to partake in events in this regard also contributed to her sense of balance. “The importance of family and friendship is interconnected with the values inherent in Yiddishkeit, which interlinks with the sense of community that formed an intrinsic element in our school experience.” As a Yeshiva College parent, three decades after entering the school, while so much has changed, Wendy can attest to the endurance of the school’s values: community, Zionism, Torah, learning, compassion and belonging. “With this foundation, one can only achieve.”
â€œJudaism formed an integral part of my identity and moving to Yeshiva College allowed me to explore and nurture that aspect of myself,â€?
meiR PeRez PIONEERING BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER Class of 2000 For Meir Perez pursuing a doctorate in biomedical engineering is a natural extension of a value system inculcated during his formative years at Yeshiva College. For most, there is nothing natural about fervently focusing on a PhD thesis at such a young age, that will ultimately be for the greater good of human kind. Meir entered Yeshiva College in Grade 8, a move that corresponded with his increasing involvement in Bnei Akiva. Where he previously felt somewhat isolated, when he joined Yeshiva College, he admits for the first time he felt part of a group that
Although at the time Yeshiva College was a small, intimate environment it was by no means detached from broader social and political issues. “Our teachers taught us about global events. We had to read Israeli newspapers. We discussed incidents affecting the Jewish community in South Africa and abroad. We studied texts, both Torah and secular and considered them in terms of their current relevance. Consequently we also saw ourselves as interlinked with others, and as part of a community that is interconnected with the rest of the world.”
“The values I gained from Yeshiva College were never overtly taught but were rather demonstrated by my educators and were acquired via ‘osmosis’.” shared similar values. He immediately cherished the davening – praying - and limudei kodesh – Torah studies - offered at the school. “Judaism formed an integral part of my identity and moving to Yeshiva College allowed me to explore and nurture that aspect of myself,” he says. Meir regarded it a privilege to be part of such an academic institution, where a culture of independence fostered his development. “I was able to explore both secular and kodesh studies with an element of independence rarely found at High School level. This combined with passionate and nurturing teachers contributed positively to my development and the decisions I would make regarding my career.” He reminisces fondly about teachers who exposed him to knowledge acquisition outside of the dictated curriculum. “My English teacher encouraged me to explore literature beyond the required syllabus, which in turn made a positive impact on my creative writing.” “My Hebrew teacher also pushed me to overcome the limits of my own thinking. ‘I can’t’ was not accepted. I persevered and reaped the rewards of developing a work ethic and focus – skills that have certainly helped me during my post-graduate studies.”
Rabbi Dov Tanzer’s approach to limudei kodesh and gemorah study undoubtedly influenced Meir’s thinking. “We analysed gemorah laterally, using an approach called lomdus, which involves assessing the halachik concepts brought down in the gemorah from various perspectives. Generally secular environments do not expose students to this type of analysis. These tools served me well and have helped me in all academic areas, particularly when working on my PhD, when I was required to develop novel approaches to solving complex problems.” Yeshiva College regarded acquiring secular knowledge as an ideal, rather than something that had to be done purely to earn a living. “The pursuit of secular knowledge was seen as being lechatchilah - the ideal. This hashkafa – outlook – encouraged me to pursue a career in academia. Also, knowing that my career choice would ultimately benefit society made my decision to remain in academia easier.” Meir recognises that contributing to humanity is part of the Torah imperative of Tikun Olam; of becoming a partner with Hashem in creation by impacting the world for the better. This value has made an impact on his endeavours. After matric, he spent two years in a yeshiva in Gush, Israel, learning under Rav Aharon Lichtenstein
and Rav Yehudah Amital ZT”L. He attributes his passion for Torah learning, and his yearning to acquire knowledge, to the values inculcated at Yeshiva College. When it came to selecting a university course, the possibilities inherent in biomedical engineering inspired him. After completing his undergraduate degrees in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering, Meir chose to acquire a Masters in biomedical engineering. He then converted this Masters into a PhD. His PhD involves the development of an automated cancer diagnostic system. Meir is developing software to analyse gene expression data from cancerous tissue and produce a diagnosis based on that data. In so doing, the specific biological pathways affected by the cancer are also identified. Meir’s work is pioneering in the field because the algorithms he develops are novel and produce high classification accuracies. “The genetic data generated for analysis is massive, and robust computational techniques are crucial to analyse this data and extract meaningful information so that clinicians can get a better understanding of the disease and come to a more accurate diagnosis. This is where I see myself making a contribution.” In addition to completing his PhD, Meir lectures electrical engineering at the University of Johannesburg. He knew he wanted to work within the medical field where he could make a difference and exert a positive impact on people’s lives. “Yeshiva College played a role in fostering my outlook,” he says. “You can’t explicitly teach this. The values I gained from Yeshiva College were never overtly taught but were rather demonstrated by my educators and were acquired via ‘osmosis’. Only when a learning environment inculcates its values, will the students adopt them and internalise them.” When it comes to learning Meir regards having a sense of independence as crucial. “It is important to take your academic career – at every stage – into your own hands, and to question what you are learning. Curiosity is the element that will ultimately allow you to acquire knowledge and fuel personal growth.”
â€œAssuming responsibility was also tacitly implied. This was particularly significant regarding my development as it allowed me to show initiative, encouraging my sense of leadership and accountability.â€?
Rabbi doRon PodLashuk PASSIONATE SHALIACH Class of 1995 When Rabbi Podlashuk and his wife Keri decided to return to Israel after spending six and half years in South Africa, they left behind a definitive void on the Yeshiva College campus. They had worked tirelessly, selflessly and passionately to promote a culture of learning - one which bears testimony to their inimitable ability to ignite a spark in the souls of those they meet, whether they are students, parents or members of the broader community. Rabbi Podlashuk entered Yeshiva College at age 3, when the nursery school became his wonderland. He did not know it then but his connection to the campus would endure beyond graduation: he was destined
He describes Yeshiva’s approach to education as focusing not only on results but also on the process. “Rabbi Dov Tanzer would explain how excellence in Torah does not depend on intellectual capability alone, but on the effort one invests,” he says. He constantly draws on his Yeshiva experiences to shape himself, the opportunities he encounters and the relationships he develops. “Yeshiva College’s distinction lies in its ability to provide Torah im derech eretz – Torah studies integrated with worldliness – combined with a deep connection to Israel, a strong focus on the individual, the community and klal Yisrael.”
“Torah knowledge is available to anyone who seeks it – its acquisition can transform them into a great individual and leader.” to leave an indelible impression where he first learned his Aleph Bet. After matriculating Rabbi Podlashuk attended yeshiva at Har Etzion. He intended to complete a year of learning but subsequently made Aliya and participated in the Hesder army programme through Har Etzion. During this time he was a madrich – youth group leader - of Kfar Haroeh and fought in Lebanon before the Israeli pullout. He remained in Israel for almost ten years, during which time he received hasmacha – Rabbinic ordination - from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Rabbi Podlashuk attributes the development of his deep sense of commitment to Judaism to Yeshiva College. “Yeshiva fostered my values for Torah,” he says, explaining how two fundamental elements formed a golden thread throughout his school learning experience – the importance of “derech eretz and midot” – worldliness and refined character traits – and personal responsibility. “The school and specifically Rabbi Tanzer emphasised the importance of being a mensch.” “Assuming responsibility was also tacitly implied. This was particularly significant regarding my development as it allowed me to show initiative, encouraging my sense of leadership and accountability.”
He alludes to Kfar as being a life changing event, a four month programme to Israel that positively influenced his love for the country, his Zionistic aspirations, his sense of self and independence, and his empathy for others – values he lives by every day. Mizrachi brought Rabbi Podlashuk back to South Africa to augment the Torah learning programme on the Yeshiva College campus and to initiate a young adults’ minyan. He implemented an afternoon programme for Bnei Akiva madrichim as well as a daf yomi shiur, which entailed learning one page of Talmud a day. “While several strong learning streams existed on the campus, these were not synchronised. The idea was to create a movement combining all these elements,” explains Rabbi Podlashuk. The result was The Beit Mordechai Campus Kollel, which started in 2010. It began with a small group of young adults learning in the afternoons and evenings. The Yeshiva College Boys High School and Bnei Akiva community joined. As a result, now more than one hundred people learn every day between mincha and ma’ariv. In addition to coordinating The Beit Mordechai Campus Kollel, Rabbi Podlashuk taught limudei kodesh – Torah studies - to the boys in Grades 10, 11 and
12 at Yeshiva College. He focused on gemorah and halachah, imparting to his students the fundamental skills they would need to truly master Torah learning. He also worked passionately to enrich his students spiritually so they would be inspired to grow, and appreciate the immense depth of Torah. His work ethic mirrors that of Rabbi Dov Tanzer’s philosophy that greatness depends on effort. Mrs. Brown, Rabbi Podlashuk’s English teacher, also echoed this attitude, encouraging her students to believe in their capabilities, while she demonstrated how she believed in them too. “This instilled in me a sense of confidence,” he says. “I wasn’t necessarily the brightest but she saw something in me and placed me in situations where she knew I would excel.” Rabbi Podlashuk recently returned to Israel after living in South Africa for six and half years. He resides in Yad Binyamin with his family and is currently learning in the prestigious Eretz Chemda Kollel. “I am working on creating a post-Semicha programme which, please G-d will start later this year. This programme is being done under the auspices of Eretz Chemda and its aim is to nurture broad minded and outstanding Talmidei Chachamim to serve as Torah and Zionist Leaders for Jewish communities around the world.” He describes Yeshiva’s ethos as one that empowers students to find their passion or acquire the skills necessary to master a chosen path. He is channeling his love for growth in Torah through his desire to create an institute for post-semicha graduates, where they can continue their learning in the Beit midrash. He certainly made a difference as a shaliach in South Africa on a communal level and he hopes to continue contributing to the broader community through the establishment of this programme. He has always encouraged his students to work towards excelling, based on the belief that “Torah knowledge is available to anyone who seeks it – its acquisition can transform them into a great individual and leader.”
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Published on Aug 22, 2012
One factor unites the eight people profiledin this publication: Yeshiva College. Theyare committed to the Yeshiva value systemof Torah learn...