web analytics
November 24, 2014 / 2 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

My Journey: The Fusion Of Secular Education And Torah Judaism

Jerusalem College of Technology

Jerusalem College of Technology
Photo Credit: JerusalemFoundation.Org

Years ago, my wife and I made the conscious decision to settle in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn for the sake of our growing family and our newfound commitment to religious observance. Looking at us now, as we blend effortlessly into the area’s vibrant Chabad Lubavitch community, one would never guess where or how we were raised.

Growing up, home was an upper-middle class neighborhood in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The son of a plant biophysicist and a child psychologist, I was reminded regularly that a strong educational background was paramount. Still, my early years were imbued with a healthy dose of Jewish identity, centered mainly on “basics” like major Jewish holidays, Zionism, and Shabbat customs.

Attending a public school, a wholly secular environment, forced me to connect with my Jewish background in other ways. Teachers and students constantly singled me out as the “Jewish kid,” and I was forced to explain and defend Judaism. Rather, than viewing it as a burden, I embraced my Jewish identity and promised myself I would learn more when the opportunity presented itself.

After a life-altering post-college Israel experience, I decided to pursue a career in Jewish communal service. During extended stints with Israel Bonds and AIPAC, I began to explore the deep and powerful waters of Torah. Though I was not initially interested in becoming more observant, I was intrigued by the practical applications of Jewish law and Jewish ethics.

I resisted a truly religious life until an outreach program retreat in 2004 changed everything.

At the age of 35, I began carrying the yoke of the Torah for the very first time, and my commitment to mitzvah observance and religious Jewish life continues to grow with every passing day.

At present, I am still actively involved in a slow, and at times difficult, self-innovation process, fusing my secular smarts with my new commitment to religious life to, hopefully, arrive at the best possible version of myself.

As the executive director of Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), one of Israel’s most unique and prestigious academic institutions of higher learning and a bastion of scientific innovation, I am doing what I can to help others self-innovate as well.

With separate colleges for men and women and a built-in yeshiva program, JCT caters to a largely religious student body. JCT students, many of whom are haredi, are provided a robust secular education with a concentration in fields ranging from high-tech to engineering, business to nursing, in an environment that allows them to gain the skills they need to earn a living without compromising their faith, ethics, or values.

Though our journeys of self-innovation began at opposite ends of the spectrum, I consider all JCT graduates my kindred spirits. Just as my background and education serves as a strong foundation that allows me to remain in the secular world professionally while offering my family the kind of spiritual existence that I have defined as the “new ideal,” the JCT graduates can maintain their established Torah observant lifestyles while using their new skills to provide their families with the requisite safety, security and sustenance.

Venturing outside my comfort zone was uncomfortable and unnerving, but I am so happy that I challenged myself in this way. Because, ultimately, this fusion of spirituality and secular education didn’t just enhance my life, but it strengthened my family and advanced the Jewish nation as a whole.

When I stroll through the streets of Crown Heights with my family, I feel confident that my wife and I made a smart choice for our children. We live in a community where they can experience the grandeur of religious life yet still benefit from the comfort and security provided by a secular education. They seem to have it all.

About the Author: Ari Pfeffer is the executive director of the Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology (www.friendsofjct.org).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

6 Responses to “My Journey: The Fusion Of Secular Education And Torah Judaism”

  1. Beautifully expressed and written. We are so proud of you!!

  2. Yehuda Cagen says:

    Great article. Better guy!

  3. Wow! Beautiful article, Ari.

  4. We're proud of you Ari.

  5. Kathy Merritt says:

    A wonderful article, you should indeed be proud.

  6. Andi Nussbaum Frenkel says:

    What an eloquent description of your Jewish journey!

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Banner at Tehran military parade, Sept. 23, 2013. Although the English statement is relatively mild, in Persian and Arabic it says “Death to America.”
Iran Says Nuclear Deal ‘Impossible’ by Nov. 24 Deadline
Latest Indepth Stories
Jo-map

As Arabs murder and maim Jews, Jordan’s leaders bark the blood libel of “Israeli aggression.”

bulb

Perhaps attacking a terrorist’s legacy broadly and publicly would dissuade others from terrorism?

Medics evacuate the dead and injured after attack on Har Nof synagogue Tuesday morning.

R’ Aryeh yelled “Run, I’ll fight!” Using a chair against terrorists to buy time so others could flee

Kfar Kana Riots

Riot started when Muslim students wore the Pal. kaffiyeh and Druze students demanded them removed

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

Having a strong community presence at the polls shows our elected officials we care about the issues

Israel’s Temple Mount policy prefers to blames the Jews-not the attackers-for the crisis.

When Islam conquered the Holy Land, it made its capital in Ramle of all places, not in Jerusalem.

I joined the large crowd but this time it was more personal; my cousin Aryeh was one of the victims.

Terrorists aren’t driven by social, economic, or other grievances, rather by a fanatical worldview.

The phrase that the “Arabs are resorting to violence” is disgraceful and blames the victim.

Tuesday, Yom Shlishi, a doubly good day in the Torah, Esav’s hands tried to silence Yaakov’s voice.

Because of the disparate nature of the perpetrators, who are also relatively young, and given the lack of more traditional targets and the reverence Palestinians have for their homes, one now hears talk of Israel returning to a policy of destroying the houses of terrorists’ families.

More Articles from Ari Pfeffer
Jerusalem College of Technology

Venturing outside my comfort zone was unnerving, but I am so happy I challenged myself in this way.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/my-journey-the-fusion-of-secular-education-and-torah-judaism/2014/06/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: