web analytics
July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



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.

Please use the Facebook Tab below to leave your comment:

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

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Ben Gurion International Airport - nearly empty as the U.S. imposes a ban on flights to Israel, caving to Hamas missile attacks.
Bloomberg Defies FAA, Boards El Al for Tel Aviv as US Caves to Hamas Terror
Latest Indepth Stories
Haredi soldiers of the Neztah Yehuda Battalion fight for Israel while maintaining Torah study in the army,

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

The Israel Test

Charges from the court of world public opinion and their refutations.


It is up to our government to ensure that their sacrifices were not made for short-term gains.

.

Supporting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has become dangerous in Malmo.

Proportionality Doctrine:The greater the military gain the greater the justifiable collateral damage

Regional pro-US Arab countries rely on Israel as a deterrence to rogue Islamic regimes.

He has always supported the underdog, once even quite literally, legislating a law that prohibits the abandonment of pets.

Temech is about providing a community – a place where religious women can learn, collaborate and refresh themselves with like-minded people.

Netanyahu has decided that the lives of Israeli are more important than looking good for Obama, U.N. and the NY Times.

Many Jews join the Israel-haters with their progressive ideology and politically correct obsessions.

“The will to triumph is a prerequisite for victory.” Abba Kovner

How can you run away from Israel and all the things that have shaped your life?

It’s as if Hamas has pulled a page out of Pharaoh’s handbook.

“Am HaNetzach Eino Mefached Mi Derech Aruka” (An eternal people doesn’t fear the long journey).

Isn’t it comforting to know that our God loves life, grants life, and promises eternal life?

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.

    Latest Poll

    Israel's Iron Dome Anti-Missile System:





    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

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: