Alumni Tell Their Stories

Alexander Haffetz | Penn State University

For years I felt like I was looking for the right place to study Torah, for the right place to strive to understand our world and my tradition. Finally in the Beit Midrash of Otniel I found a home.

Otniel is all about balance. The balance of traditional learning and academic tools. The balance of intellect and spirit. The balance of commitment to authentic ancient tradition and openness to the ideas of the present. I don’t know how to learn in a place that does not hold and value all of these tensions.
One of the Rabbis here once spoke about these tensions in the following way. “There are two realms – the Torah realm and the realm of other thoughts out there. I value both. I want to learn from both because Hashem brought all of that wisdom into the world. But I do not stand with one foot in each world. The Torah is my realm. And the other realm I look to to enhance my existence in this realm.” For me there is no idea that better embodies Otniel’s learning style. Openness to the wisdoms out there is the world – but only as enhancers to our tradition, one we find central and paramount.
I love the value here on dialogue, on open thinking. I love the integration with western ideas and with eastern ideas. I love the engagement with interfaith work. I love the singing and the dancing, and I love the rigor of the study.
For me, Otniel is home.

Eli Milstein | Hebrew University

Otniel is an oasis, a force providing spiritual life in the desert.

As an eighteen year old arriving in Otniel, I was curious and eager. Although I definitely had moments of inspiration, I did not have a consistent flow of Torah in my life. I was in a desert, unsure from where my next drink may come.

Otniel became my home, a home filled with life, newness and diversity of spirit. I no longer study at the yeshiva on a daily basis, but as every student of Otniel can attest to, there are no graduates of the yeshiva – outside the walls of the Beit Midrash the revelation of Torah does not end. The words that I heard, that I studied, the connections that I made, are all the foundations of my life as I continue relating to our holy tradition and finding myself within its story.

The Torah of Otniel touched me in a deep and sustainable way, a way that will last an eternity, and continue to grow with me as I grow with it.


May also interest you