More than 1,100 of the over 4,000 alumni of Shapell’s/Darche Noam have made Aliyah. They reflect the diversity of Orthodoxy that is encouraged in both the Yeshiva and Midrasha. You can find them in communities as diverse as Efrat and Beitar Illit, Tzfat and Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh and Netanya, and in many different neighborhoods throughout Jerusalem. Why did these alumni choose to make Israel their home?
Liz Bernstein came with her husband Jared to study in the Married Couples Program. Not only did they make aliyah (to the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem), but she even helps others make aliyah. She shared, “Spending time as a married couple at Midreshet Rachel and Shapell’s gave us the opportunity to explore day to day life in Israel while being surrounded by the yeshiva’s incredibly supportive community of teachers, rabbis and students. The faculty were such exemplary role models in how to live productive, flourishing lives in Israel and contribute to Am Yisrael. Ultimately, it was such a positive experience that we made aliyah ourselves. I’ve had the privilege to use my knowledge to assist many other MRC/Shapells students over the years make Aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh where I have been working for the last 14 years (as manager of the pre-Aliyah Department).”
Amos and Ellen Levi, now of Neve Daniel, also studied as a couple at Shapell’s/Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya. Amos recalls, “Our two years together in Darche Noam created a strong foundation for our marriage and family that was anchored in Israel. It was during that time that we fell in love with Gush Etzion. When we returned to the US, our work in the Jewish community continued to bring us back to Israel and we engaged in a continuing struggle regarding Aliyah. When our oldest, who was born during our time at Darche Noam, turned seven, we felt like we had reached a point where it was now or never. We took the plunge after seven years in Baltimore and came home to Gush Etzion because it was clear that there was no better place for us to raise our children.” Ellen added, “We wanted to live a holistic Jewish life -- to be able to raise our children in a place where learning about their Jewish heritage and history is an integral component of their day to day life; where Hebrew is their language; and where they play an active role in building the Jewish future. Here, they are intimately connected with their Judaism and also feel a deep connection to Israel and the Jewish People. Studying at Shapell's and MRC rooted us in Jewish text and religious life and gave us the framework for building a Jewish home -- making it all the more important for us to do that in the Jewish homeland.” Both Amos and Ellen have continued their work in Jewish communal service; Amos at the JDC and Ellen with Ogen (formerly the Israel Free Loan Association).
Chaya Rus Alexandra Kong made Aliyah from Hong Kong (where she had already begun practicing law) in 2019 after six months of studying at Midreshet Rachel. She reflected, “I wanted to move to Israel mainly in the hopes of joining a society where Jewish observance is part-and-parcel to community life, of participating in our national return to Israel, and of G-d - willing building a family with better Jewish infrastructure around. In 2019, I spent six months in Jerusalem at Midreshet Rachel, where I benefited from the inspiringly patient and highly rational counsel of teachers who practice the profound Torah wisdom that they teach. The Aliyah process of ‘lech-lecha,’ while difficult and self-revealing, is rewarding, and enables us to manifest our full potential.” Having made aliyah, Chaya lives in the Kiryat Mattersdorf neighborhood of Jerusalem. She is currently studying in Ulpan Etzion before beginning her career in Israel as a legal consultant
Michael Danto, who came to Shapell’s after graduating from Harvard, said, “I made Aliyah primarily for two reasons, one emotional and one intellectual/ spiritual - both of which burgeoned while I was a student at Shapell’s. The emotional reason was that while at Shapell’s I came to feel at home among the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. It felt intuitively clear to me that I belong here and that here I would flourish the most. The intellectual/ spiritual reason was that I came to appreciate the centrality of the Land of Israel in the Jewish worldview. This came about through conversations with some of the rabbis at Shapell’s as well as through exposure to a broader swath of Jewish texts.” After concluding his studies at Shapell’s, Michael began studying at the Mir Yeshiva where he has recently begun his second year. He, his wife (currently doing her residency at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital to become a pediatrician) and their daughter live in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Daniel Selig reminisced, “The amazing combination of different religious opinions represented by the Darche Noam staff had a few very unifying common messages. They were: Love of Torah, love of your fellow Jew, love of the Land of Israel and a huge appreciation to HaShem for giving the Jewish people the opportunity to rebuild its life in Israel. Combined with the field trips, the message came across to me: STAY IN ISRAEL and build my family HERE. There's nothing like living as a Jew in Israel!” Daniel, who lives in Har Nof, is a tour guide
Doug Goldstein shared, “The main reason that my wife and I made Aliyah just a few years after I had gone to Shapell’s was that we believed the best place in the world to raise our children would be in a yishuv in Israel. We moved to Eli, and then eventually to Efrat. We’re so proud of our children, who have grown up with so many of the middot that I learned from the Shapell’s rabbeim.” Doug is a well known financial and investment advisor (specializing in helping fellow olim) and a frequent contributor to Israel National News.
Originally from Queens, current student Shamual Nektalov made the decision to make Aliyah after one year at Shapell’s. He shared, “I made Aliyah because Israel is the only place that my neshama (soul) feels like it’s truly at home. Shapell’s played a role in my decision by helping me work out all the practical differences of living in Israel vs. the US. Reflecting on the Rabbis’ passion and love for the land was an inspiration as well.”
Shapell’s/Darche Noam has not only succeeded in producing over 1,100 olim, but it has also often provided vital assistance to ensure their aliyah is successful.
Current student Daniel Crossman, originally from Seattle, shared, “When I left Seattle, living in Israel was a fantasy, but going to Yeshiva there was not. The staff at Shapell's counseled me on every topic I needed when I expressed my interest in making Aliyah. They also gave me connections in a diversity of communities and provided a place to experience the full patchwork of Israeli religious culture. They have even allowed me to replace part of my curriculum with night classes in order so I can integrate smoothly between Yeshiva and general society. Without Shapell's I may have become disheartened and given up on this incredibly rewarding dream”.
Moshe Braun, an acclaimed artist and sofer now living in Ramat Bet Shemesh, made aliyah more than two decades ago from Chicago with his wife, Marla, and baby son. Their first stop was to learn at Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel in the Married Couples Program. There they found the support that led to a successful aliyah. Moshe recalls, “I’ve always said that being in the Yeshiva as a young couple with a new baby was the most fantastic ‘absorption center’ a young family could have. Coming without a family support system at all, the Yeshiva was a wonderful and supportive place. It helped give us a healthy grounding in what it means to be a Jew, including the responsibilities of a Jew. Part-and-parcel is the responsibility a Jew has vis-a-vis Eretz Yisrael - to strengthen Eretz Yisrael, to bring positivity in all that we do, and to embrace the responsibility that a Jew has to take care of Am Yisrael, especially in Eretz Yisrael.”
The high percentage of students who come from all over the world to study at Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel and decide to make Aliyah is astounding, particularly as the schools do not explicitly “push” Aliyah. Perhaps it is precisely this lack of pressure that has contributed to the high rate of Aliyah. Because the program encourages intellectual and spiritual growth, fluency in our classical texts and life-long dedication to the Jewish people and love of the Land of Israel, many students and alumni naturally and without coercion reach the conclusion that the best place to make their home is in Israel. These students, primarily in their 20’s and 30’s, are often at a point in their lives where, as independent adults, they are able to make the move and actualize these values. And those that are not yet ready naturally have a higher level of connection and commitment to Israel.
The olim whose love for the Land and People of Israel was nurtured at Shapell’s/Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya are making their impact all over Israel. The yeshiva and seminary continues to be available with guidance and support. For more information on Shapell’s/Darche Noam please fill out the form here and visit www.darchenoam.org.