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Meet the Honorees

 

The 20th Anniversary Gala and Dedication will, G-d willing, take place on June 21st, the 15th of Sivan. At the Gala, the Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago will be formally dedicated by Dr. Yosef and Shira Malka Walder and renamed as Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu - Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago.

 

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Chicago Torah Visionary Award 

 

Dr. Yosef and Shira Malka Walder have blazed a unique path that blends their passion for Torah and compassion for their fellow man in a way that is as avant-garde as it is traditional. To the great benefit of Klal Yisrael, they are ardent supporters of Jewish education at all levels, and have actualized their vision with many novel initiatives and innovative projects.

In 1987, Dr. Walder founded Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), a company that manufactures synthetic DNA. But IDT is more than a scientific enterprise.

Since opening a modest satellite office in Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie with three employees in 1994, the Illinois branch of IDT has given honorable employment to hundreds of Torah observant Jews in an environment rich with Torah ideals, and mitzvah observance.

With a deep interest in Jewish affairs, the Walders support dozens—if not hundreds—of institutions around the country, in Israel, and throughout the world. They are the driving force behind the Chabad Early Childhood Education Network which provides resources and support to several hundred preschools across the country.

Closer to home, their visionary generosity has impacted the entire Chicagoland community through the myriad of programs and mosdos in which they play a pivotal role. A few notable examples include: The Kehillah Fund for Jewish Education which was established by Dr. Yosef Walder in 2004 and currently provides over $850,000 per year in financial support to Jewish Day Schools in the ATT system; the Walder Education Pavilion of Torah Umesorah, which provides invaluable resources to educators all over the world; and Walder Science Center.

At the 20th Anniversary Gala and Dedication, Dr. Yosef and Shira Malka Walder will be presented with the Chicago Torah Visionary Award on the occasion of the dedication of the Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu – Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago, as well as in appreciation of their visionary Torah leadership in Chicago and around the world.

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 Joseph and Fay Rosenberg 
Lev V'Nefesh Award

 

In the two short years since their return to Chicago, Rabbi Shalom and Chana Bergovoy have established a name for themselves as leaders in the community. Coming from Morristown, N.J., where Shalom had been learning, they made the decision to move to their hometown and “make a difference.”

Shalom’s connection to the Mesivta runs deep. Following his older brothers—one of whom was in Mesivta’s pioneering class 20 years ago—he learned in the Mesivta during what he fondly refers to “one of the most special periods of my life.”

In fact, he attributes his current success in sales to the confidence he gained on the weekly tefillin route he developed in his Mesivta years.

Despite his many business and community obligations – he is involved in the ongoing success of Chabad at University of Illinois, Chabad at UIC, Libenu and the Mesivta – Shalom makes it a point to learn regularly, including a treasuredchavrusa with Rabbi Perlstein.

A registered nurse, Chana Bergovoy is active in a number of organizations in the city. She is a founding committee member of the Chicago Women’s Circle and gives freely of her time and smile to the teens at risk she mentors at Madraigos, where she is a basketball coach.

Together, they truly exemplify the name of the award they so richly deserve: Lev V’Nefesh – heart and soul.

You may place an ad in the gala journal and make reservations by clicking here.                                                                       

Chicago Uniting Through Torah

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Chicago Uniting Through Torah 

        

 

In the two decades that the Lubavitch Mesivta has been serving the Chicago community, it has made a powerful impact in numerous ways—above all by rallying the Jewish people around its most precious possession: Torah.

“When the Mesivta students come to our shul, I hold them up as an ideal for others to emulate,” says Rabbi Elisha Prero of Young Israel of West Rogers Park, where the Mesivta students are welcomed guest-speakers during shalosh seudos and other occasions. “Often I find myself deeply impressed by their mastery of the material and their ability to connect to the tzibur through Torah. I remember a particularly accomplished young man who had a wonderful and deep way of explaining the Torah thought he was teaching. I asked him how old he was and he simply said ‘shiur gimmel,’ I thought he meant that he was in his third year of beis midrash, when in fact he was still in the third year of mesivta.”

The Mesivta bochurim are also regular visitors at other Torah centers.

For fourteen years, they have been steadily building Torah bonds with their peers at the Fasman Yeshiva High School in Skokie. “Over the years, we’ve developed a friendship,” says Yoni Brown, a Fasman senior, who has been learning with the Mesivta boys since he was in 9th grade. “Ourchavrusah sessions are among the highlights of my week.”

Although the bochurim come from different backgrounds, they find a common language in the age-old words of Abaye and Rava, Ravina and Rav Ashi, and the Alter Rebbe and the Rebbe whose words they study with devotion and reverence.

To many Chicagoans, Mr. Marc Geller’s conference room has become synonymous with Torah learning downtown. A diamond merchant by trade, Mr. Geller is famous for hosting a Minchah and Torah shiur that attracts business people yearning for a bit of spirituality in the midst of the busy work day.

After a full week of hearing divrei Torah from rebbisroshei yeshivah, and other accomplished scholars, Mr. Geller tops it all off by exchanging Torah thoughts with the Mesivta students who visit his office every Friday.

“This is what I take with me into Shabbos, and what I most often will repeat at my own table,” attests Mr. Geller, “Everyone knows that I love hearing a devar Torah, and I especially love hearing it from theseyungeleit, who are the future of our people, our next leaders.”

“It’s not easy for them on a Friday afternoon, racing against the clock, going from door to door,” observes Mr. Geller. “I see it as a two-way street. I gain from their Torah knowledge, and I believe that they gain by having the opportunity to be welcomed in and listened to.”

While the Mesivta has changed the face of the community through thebochurim it produces, it has also attracted a world-class team ofmechanchim, whose classes and guidance have benefitted the entirety of Chicago.

“Just having these talmidei chachamim in our shul has been a tremendous asset to our baalei batim,” declared Rabbi Baruch Hertz, marah d’asra of Congregation Bnei Ruven. “The very fact that a person knows he can approach someone with a question in learning and receive an answer that is clear, broad, and deep is invaluable.”

Many Mesivta staff have regular chavrusos with individuals and also give ongoing shiurim in Bnei Ruven and other area shuls.

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“It was 22 years ago that we began our hashkamah minyan in KINS,” recalls Mr. Hillel Shapiro. “At that time, we wanted to make sure that it would be a way to enhance people’s learning on Shabbos, and not just a shortcut to get to the cholent by 9:30. We therefore instituted that theminyan be followed by classes with an emphasis on halachah lemaaseh.Besides for our rav, Rabbi Perlstein has been the single presenter who has been with us all this time. His broad knowledge and open give-and-take format has made for classes that are enlightening and lively.”

And indeed, the Mesiva’s presence is felt in too many ways to be fully captured in words. To quote Rabbi Daniel Raccah, “the Lubavitch Mesivta creates a total ben Torah, who is an integral part of a community.”

An International Story of Dedication - Behind Mesivta's New Name

 

 

Eliyahu Neeman
Eliyahu Pinchas Ne'eman Z"L                                           

The Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago is proud to be dedicated as Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu, memorializing the life of Eliyahu Ne’eman

Eliyahu Pinchas Ne’eman was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1984, the third child in a family that would grow to include six children. When Eliyahu was just 13 years old, his mother died in a car accident. His father, who was badly injured, was left unable to care for Eliyahu and his sisters.

The three younger girls were taken in by their older sister, who was already married at the time. But Eliyahu faltered. With no one to help him process his horrible trauma, Eliyahu struggled in school and spent several of his high school years “in the streets” living in homeless shelters.

In time, through their charitable work in Israel, Dr. Yosef and Shira Malka Walder became acquainted with the younger Ne’eman girls, whom they informally adopted as their own.

The bond grew so strong that Dr. and Mrs. Walder walked the third and fourth girls down the aisle at their weddings. It was at one of those weddings where the Walders met Eliyahu and were immediately taken by his fine character and pleasant demeanor. Even though he had spent much of his youth on his own, he had managed to overcome his challenges. With Yiddishkeit and his siblings as his anchor, Eliyahu persevered with remarkable dedication and incredible simchah.

As Eliyahu continued to thrive, he met the lovely young woman who would become his wife.

The couple got married, Eliyahu enrolled in law school, and they were blessed with a delightful baby daughter. A talented vocalist, Eliyahu loved to entertain and inspire those around him.

Everything seemed to be looking up for the young Ne’eman family, but Hashem had other plans.

In the spring of 2012, after complaining of headaches and suddenly collapsing, Eliyahu was rushed to the ICU and placed on life support.  He had contracted bacterial meningitis and his moments were numbered. Dr. Walder flew to Israel to be there with Eliyahu, but it was too late. On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Eliyahu’s pure soul returned to its Maker.

The Walders felt like they had lost their own child.

To perpetuate his name, Dr. and Mrs. Walder will be dedicating the Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago as Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu.

Dr. Yosef Walder 
Dr. Yosef Walder

Dr. Walder explains: “For many years we have been proud supporters of the Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago, a school where every child is noticed and cared for. In my travels, I often meet people who – when hearing that I am from Chicago – comment on the wonderful reputation the Mesivta has as a premier school, where students are inculcated with a love for Torah learning. What makes the Mesivta outstanding though, is not just the level of their Rebbeim and students, but the attention that is given to each student’s spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth, to assure that no student will ever fall through the cracks.

“We strongly feel that by dedicating the Mesivta in memory of Eliyahu, we will fittingly honor him, through the generations of students that will be given the opportunities which he missed out on.”

The dedication will G-d willing take place at the Mesivta's 20th Anniversary Gala, on June 21st - 15th of Sivan at the Weston O'Hare.

Chanukah Impact! @ Mesivta

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Preparing 2800 Menorah Kits!

For weeks before Chanukah, the students of the Mesivta's Joseph & Fay Rosenberg Shluchim Mentoring and Leadership Program were busy making calls, sending emails, ordering supplies, packing menorah kits, and arranging schedules. 

They were preparing for a week of high-energy outreach, when Mesivta students fan out across Chicagoland to bring the light of Chanukah to Jewish people all over.

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Shlomo Zev Friedman regales the crowd with the story of Chanukah and its relevance to us today.

In addition to their regular rigorous studies, the twenty-year-old student organizers are also responsible for an extensive network of weekly outreach and holiday programs benefiting nearly every segment of the Chicagoland Jewish community. Known as the Shluchim, they organize programs and even raise the necessary funds to cover expenses. 

"I had never directed anything of this scope before,” said Mendel Bergstein from Oak Park, Illinois, “so this was a real challenge and a great learning opportunity for me.” Bergstein was responsible for arranging the many locations in Chicago and its suburbs where the 130 Mesivta students held Chanukah parties for seniors, lit Menorah with elderly people in their residences and distributed Menorahs in public areas. Other Shluchim organized transportation and raised funds for the menorahs and party supplies. 

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Students Shmuel Glaser from Chicago and Mendel Kaplan from Maryland light Menorah with a resident at the CJE Swartzberg House.

All told the students brought light and joy to 420 residents in 15 senior housing and nursing facilities and a record 2,800 Menorah's were distributed over the 8 days of Chanukah!

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Mazal Tov! Eleven Mesivta Students Master Entire Talmudic Tractate

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Walk into Mesivta’s main study hall at just about any time of day and night, and you can expect to be greeted by the sight of students learning in pairs or alone, probing the depths of Jewish scholarship. Even during meal breaks—when their peers relax, play basketball, or just get some fresh air—some devoted students remain behind, swaying over oversized tombs filled with tiny Hebrew and Aramaic texts.

Many of them were participants in Mivtzah Torah, a program in which students in the 10th and 11th grades used their free time to study dozens of double-sided folio of Talmud not covered by the official school syllabus.

(The 9th grade has a similar program that is incorporated into the actual syllabus, not a voluntary program to be completed outside of school hours.)

“It was a really good way to use the breaks,” says Minnesota native Levi Feller, who recently graduated after having participated in the program all three years he studied at the Mesivta. “Besides, you end up learning a lot. I would recommend it to anyone.”

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Rabbi Menachem Schechter presents certificate of achievement to Levi Feller 

This year, Feller and 11 of his peers mastered the entire tractate of Gittin, which deals with the laws and practices of Jewish divorce.

“It was especially gratifying to see that the boys really took the learning seriously,” reports Rabbi Menachem Schechter, who oversees the program, “Each and every participant averaged in the upper nineties on the tests they took throughout the year.”

While most students were tested in a series of 5 exams, each covering as many as 20 of the 90 folio of the tractate, Feller and fellow student Naftali Levertov from Austin, Texas, were then tested on the entire tractate at once. They displayed a prodigious grasp of the book, without as much as glancing inside to refresh their memory during the two-hour exam.

The participants in the program were lauded for their efforts and presented with special certificates and gifts in a ceremony attended by their peers and faculty members.

“The truth is that I was surprised how much we accomplished,” says Feller, “But of course if you set aside the time and put in the effort, you’re going to get somewhere.”

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