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This remote Jewish study buddy program is finding its moment in the COVID era

2 Torah Study classmates reunite

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By ERIC BERGER  (JTA) When Sheri Heller’s husband nearly died in 2014 after doctors found that a quarter he had swallowed decades earlier had perforated his small bowel, Heller decided that the episode was a case of God “banging on our door.”

 

An attorney from Potomac, Maryland, Heller had attended Hebrew school as a child but had not really done much Jewish learning as an adult.

So she decided to go to Israel on a women’s program. She returned with a newfound interest in Judaism and an actionable recommendation for how to cultivate her curiosity: a one-on-one Jewish learning program that matches Jewish mentors with people like Heller interested in deepening their Jewish knowledge.

Heller was paired with Sima Kirscher, an Orthodox woman from Far Rockaway, New York, a mentor who signed up for the program, called Partners in Torah, as a way to honor the memory of her recently deceased mother. The learning happens online, which was perfect for Heller, a mother of four who was intimidated by the idea of meeting in person.

“My first goal was to learn to daven fluently and with understanding,” Heller recalled, using the Yiddish word for pray. “I was nervous at first. I didn’t think an Orthodox person would actually want to teach me and learn with me.”

But that quickly changed.

“I realized that I was judging myself and that Sima was only about unconditional love and support and really wanted to guide me and help me learn and reach my goals,” said Heller, now 56.

Today the study partners are close friends and Heller prays every day.

The goal of Partners in Torah is simple: To have Jews learn together using the time-tested model of one-on-one Jewish learning known as chavrutah. The organization, which has helped build more than 76,000 partnerships across 29 countries since its founding in 1993, uses a variety of criteria to match students with the right mentors. The learning is done remotely, with partners meeting by phone, Zoom, WhatsApp or other virtual communication tools.

Now, with so many Jews around the world mostly staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a great hunger for meaningful human connection, says Moe Mernick, chief operating officer of Partners in Torah.

“We are creating an Airbnb-like, two-sided marketplace whereby there are two people who are looking to study and we are a platform in between connecting people,” Mernick said, noting that the program is free.

The focus is on paired study rather than video classes or developing online educational curricula for solo study because the program’s leaders believe that chavrutah learning is the ideal way of engaging not just with Jewish texts but with people.

“The Torah and Talmud are intended to be analyzed and challenged in a very critical way, and you can’t do that alone,” Mernick said.

Computer scientist David Magerman remembers the moment when he decided he wanted to deepen his Jewish life. When visiting religious family in Jerusalem years ago, he noticed that people streamed in and out of the family’s home all day, every day.

“I didn’t feel like I had that kind of community back home,” said Magerman, who lives outside Philadelphia.

But intense work at a hedge fund didn’t leave him much time. A friend recommended the partners program, highlighting the flexibility of the setup and time commitment. Magerman agreed to try it and was interviewed by a staffer who asked about 30 questions to find Magerman the right study partner.

He was matched with an attorney from Teaneck, New Jersey, and the two began studying the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a book of Jewish laws.

“He was stunned that I wanted to go through the laws one at a time and learn them,” Magerman said. “He thought it was the most boring thing around, but I said that’s what I wanted to do, so we did it. He accepted my challenging tone. He wasn’t put off by my questions.”

Magerman eventually added two more weekly study partners.

“The Talmud states, ‘When two people learn Torah together, they begin as enemies, as foes, and they end up as beloved friends,’” said Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, director of education for the National Council of Synagogue Youth, part of the Orthodox Union. “I think what makes Partners in Torah remarkable is it connects people from deliberately different experiential backgrounds in Jewish learning, and I think the more disparate the background, the more impactful the bond.”

Nikki Schreiber, the founder and editor of Humans of Judaism, a Jewish media company, has participated in the program as a mentor.

“Your arm is not being twisted in any sort of way,” Schreiber said. “It’s really an environment where people are coming together with the same effort and goals.”

About a year after Heller and Krischer began learning together, they met for the first time at a Partners in Torah Shabbaton retreat in Connecticut.

“I was a nervous wreck,” Krischer recalled with a laugh. “And then she came, and we were just screaming and hugging.”

Their families have become close in the years since. Heller traveled to Krischer’s sons’ weddings in New York and New Jersey, and their two daughters currently study Torah together.

Now the initiative is being taken up by another generation: Heller’s 82-year-old mother recently signed up to learn.

This story was sponsored by and produced in collaboration with Partners in Torah, which facilitates online, one-on-one Jewish learning partnerships. Learn more about how you can personalize your Jewish journey. This article was produced by JTA’s native content team.

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Connecting the Dots: Ari Posner- Meet Ari Posner

Ari Z. Posner, son of Barry and Bebe on the left and Ari P. Posner, son of Gerry and Sherna with the cap on the right

By GERRY POSNER I suppose we are not the only family to have inter-related connections. At least, not in the old days of the shtetl. What I do know is that finding my way through these family relationships took me years to figure out and understand. Recently, the dots got connected once again.

It all started (at least as far back as I can go) when around 1905, one Isaac Posner married one Kayla Shulman. They were living at that time in the same shtetl or at least close to the same shtetl of what was then known as Propoisk (now Slavgorod) in present day Belarus. From this marriage emerged three children: a daughter, Lillian Posner – later Romalis;l a son, Samuel L. Posner; and another son, Solomon Posner. That was simple enough. As it turned out, Issac Posner was an older brother of my grandfather, Herman Posner. Isaac’s wife, Kayla, was the sister of my other grandfather, Harry Shulman. Even that was not terribly complicated. In short, my father’s uncle Issac, married my mother’s aunt Kayla. That marriage linked the Posners to the Shulmans in Round 1.

When Isaac and Kayla’s kids married, a son, Sol, married a woman from Iowa City Iowa, named Rhea Markovitz. Not long after, in December, 1937 a son of Herman Posner (my grandfather) – Samuel R. Posner, (my father), married a woman named Rhea Shulman ( my mother) also from Iowa City, Iowa. She was a daughter to Harry and Anna Shulman of Iowa City. Thus, in Iowa City there were two first cousins – Rhea Shulman and Rhea Markovitz, born less than a year apart and both of whom later married men from Winnipeg, both with the initials SP – one Sol Posner and one Sam Posner. Of course, the marriage of my mother, a Shulman, to my father, a Posner, created Round 2 of the Posners and the Shulmans joining together. Are you still with me?

When, in the course of time, Sol and Rhea and Sam and Rhea began to have children, they created a relationship for their children in what might be considered by some to be almost incestuous. Rhea and Sol had two sons, Barry and Craig (of blessed memory), both of whom were and are likely still known to many readers to this day. My parents had Linda, my brother Michael, and me. We were, and still remain, cousins to Barry to this day. I was, and still am related to Barry and Craig in no less than three ways. Why? First of all, Barry’s father Sol was a first cousin to my father Sam. Secondly, Barry’s father was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. Thirdly, Barry’s mother Rhea was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. So the ties are deep. Confusing as well.

Of course, what solidified these roots even further was the fact that Sam and Rhea, my parents, and Sol and Rhea, Barry and Craig’s parents, all lived for the rest of their lives in Winnipeg. So, there were two S. Posners – three in fact, as Sol had a brother, Samuel L., a pharmacist. But, let’s not get sidetracked. The two Rheas were very close and I suspect there had to be much confusion about these two women with the same name and almost the same age. Moreover, the two families shared similar experiences each summer. That was because Rhea Posner – Barry and Craig’s mother, took her kids to Iowa City to spend part of the holidays with her parents, while my mother – Rhea, would also take my siblings and me to visit her parents in Iowa City, Iowa. My cousin Craig and I were the same age (born one month apart ) and hence spent much time together, both in Winnipeg and Iowa City. I never could quite get the picture as to why I saw him in both locations. All I knew was that he was my cousin.

Well, we all grew up with this similar history and genetic connections. When Barry married the former Bebe Melmed, three kids followed. The eldest son was Ari Z. Posner, who grew up in Montreal – where Barry and Bebe lived. When I married Sherna Bernbaum, we also had three kids, the eldest of whom was Ari P. Posner. The fact that these boys had the same name – Ari, was more of a fluke as they were not named for the same person. Oddly, (or maybe not given the past history) Ari Z’s middle name is Zvi, the same name as my son, only in the case of my son, Zvi is his Hebrew middle name. Ari Z. is about 5 years older than Ari P. That difference is about the age difference between Barry and me.

Recently, and to my delight, my son Ari had a good reason to go to L.A. to receive a music award and, to my greater delight, he expressed an interest in seeing the other Ari, whom he had never met. L.A. is where the other Ari Posner resides. As it turns out, their names were not the only dot that connected them. Both have made a career in the arts, Ari Z has done it in writing, creating and producing for TV primarily – and has been very successful in his field. Ari P. is a composer. He is not that far removed from the other Ari since he often writes music for TV in the US and Canada.

I think of grandfather Herman Posner and his brother Isaac. Would they not be amazed at this connection? Or better yet, what would my great-grandfather Shmerya and wife Yudasha have to say about two of their descendants now – approximately 170 years after their births, meeting and reinforcing the family ties. As much as so much has changed, this little bit of Posner history is the same.

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New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

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Top-rated games you’ll find at online casinos

Online casinos serve as platforms where you can engage in games with monetary stakes for a chance to win real cash prizes. With many of these platforms accepting cryptocurrencies, this exciting activity has become popular amongst traders looking to earn more Bitcoin (BTC) or Ethereum (ETH) to trade.
The array of games available at online casinos is extensive, offering a wide variety to choose from. Each game offers a unique experience that makes it stand out among thousands of titles. To give you an idea of what kinds of games await you, check out these three examples:
Video slots with multiplier features
The slot game category has the most variety out of all types of games offered at Bitcoin casino Canada. There are easily more than 1000 of them in a given platform and each one offers a list of features like multipliers, sticky wilds, and expanding bonuses. There are other features you can enjoy but some of them are unique to games from a specific software provider.
What you should look for is any slot game with multipliers. This feature boosts how much you win per hit in a slot game and the amount can reach up to the game’s max payout. It is also the most versatile feature because it can work in tandem with almost any other slot game mechanic. Thus, your experience playing slot games with multipliers will always feel rewarding.
Variations of poker table games
Poker stands out for its strategic depth. With simple rules, this game offers single-player variations available at all Bitcoin casinos. If you can’t remember the winning hand combinations, then you may use references provided by the game in the description. Most of these poker games tell you what kind of hand you have so there’s no need to memorise any winning combinations.
In single-player poker games, players compete against the house, with different versions featuring varying winning conditions. Some require players to bet on their hand to win by having the best combination on the table. Others are played like slot games where you win by forming any winning hand but the payout is determined by the combination you make.
Playing any kind of poker game is fun to play to win Bitcoin prizes. Multiplayer poker is difficult to win unless you’re skilled at bluffing so stick to single-player ones to have more chances to win.
European roulette with a twist
European roulette has been a beloved classic among gamblers throughout history. It can be more fun now with new technology that is possible at online casinos. Some software providers have introduced innovative features, such as multipliers, to make payouts more exciting. Others revolutionise the classic format by adding another ball or a new game mode as a bonus feature.
The most creative iteration of the classic European roulette can be found at the top Bitcoin casino operating in Canada. Explore this unique iteration and dive into the action using crypto for added convenience and security.
Discover more games at your favourite online casino
All of these games can be found in almost every online casino. Just choose whichever has the best offering or feel the most convenient to use then explore their other options. From classic card games to cutting-edge slot games, they each offer unique experiences from one another. Take your time to find the perfect platform that offers a whole package of excitement and convenience, giving you a worthwhile journey to win crypto in the most entertaining way possible.

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