Yeshivat Lev HaTorah, located in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, is the first Anglo yeshiva to be accepted into the Organization of Hesder Yeshivot (Igud Yeshivot HaHesder). The significance of this designation is that any student at Lev HaTorah can now decide to serve in the IDF as part of the Hesder track. This track requires students to learn for a year and a half before beginning their army service, then serve in the army for a year and a half, followed by learning for two additional years in yeshiva. (Israelis’ standard tour of service is three years.) In the past, Anglos who wanted the Hesder track had to learn in an Israeli yeshiva, while now they can learn in an Anglo yeshiva (Lev HaTorah) and still participate in the Hesder program.
Four years ago, Lev HaTorah introduced a secondary, smaller program, Lev LaChayal, which specifically caters to the needs of religious Anglo lone soldiers. Lev LaChayal is designed to provide comprehensive training for Anglos intending to draft into the IDF, including high-level Torah study, IDF-designed physical training and advanced Hebrew Ulpan and tours of the country, in addition to providing living arrangements to the students during their service. Each individual receives the spiritual, ideological and physical preparations necessary to allow him to make his maximum contribution to the IDF. Lev LaChayal offers personal guidance for each student as he navigates the potentially bewildering military bureaucracies and assists with any difficulties he may encounter during his service. Participants are offered comfortable apartments where the refrigerators are filled with food and amenities generously provided, with the students becoming part of a community that not only appreciates their service, but embraces their participation on Shabbat and Chagim. Mahal volunteers, IDF volunteers who wish to serve in the army without making aliyah, can also participate in Lev HaTorah’s programs, both studying in yeshiva and serving in the IDF. The government of Israel and Igud Yeshivot Hesder awarded Yeshivat Lev HaTorah its Hesder status in recognition of the program’s importance to its participants.
Rav Boaz Mori and Rav Benjy Kwalwasser, co-founders of Yeshivat Lev HaTorah, studied together at the Gruss Kollel and were active in kiruv work for NCSY. In the fall of 2001 they established their yeshiva, joined by well-known rabbis such as Rav Jake Vidomlanski, Rav Netanel Lebowitz, Rav Asher Friedman, Rav Mordechai Kaplan, Rav Yehoshua Fass, Rav Natan Slifkin, Rav Mordechai Machlis, Rav Menachem Leibtag and Rav Asher Altshul. Rav Dudi Winkler, the director of Lev LaChayal, as well as Rav and Dayan Yehuda Odesser, head of the halacha program, all continue to serve in the IDF reserves. Starting with just 19 students, the yeshiva’s current class consists of 80 first-year students and 21 second-year students, with 12 of those students set to enter the army next month. There are currently 10 lone soldiers on active duty from the yeshiva. Most of the students are from the US and Canada—including several students from Westchester, Connecticut and the Bronx—with additional young men from England, South Africa and Australia.
Noam White from New Rochelle is the co-founder of Lev LaChayal. He also serves as the assistant director of development and night seder rebbe. White graduated from SAR High School in Riverdale and studied at Lev HaTorah for two years prior to serving in the IDF as a special forces sniper in Gadsar Givati. He completed his undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies and is currently studying for his master’s degree in Jewish History at Bar Ilan University, where he is also enrolled in its semicha kollel program. White explained his love of Yeshivat Lev HaTorah as “being a place where its students are able to explore the depths of the Torah...and it also becomes a home away from home for its students.” The rabbis welcome students into their homes and families and create lifelong relationships with their students. The welcoming, family-like atmosphere of the yeshiva impacts the community of Ramat Beit Shemesh as well, as the yeshiva students embark on chesed projects to meet the existing needs of the community.
For further information about Yeshivat Lev HaTorah or Lev LaChayal, please visit https://www.facebook.com/levlachayal/ or www.levhatorah.org or contact Noam White at 052-684-6400 or [email protected].
By Yvette Finkelstein