It’s no understatement to say that BINA’s new program, Beit Midrash TLV, is exactly what Naum Milyavskiy was looking for.
Born in Kiev and raised in Los Angeles, Naum spent last year traveling through England and Spain before finally arriving in Israel. When he arrived, he spent time volunteering on a kibbutz, where he taught English to Bedouin Arabs. During his time volunteering, Naum realized that while he was in Israel, it was also important that he have an experience that would connect him with his Judaism before returning home. He explored the option of a traditional Yeshiva — but ultimately felt that traditional yeshivas might not permit him the freedom to express himself and ask the questions he wanted to ask.
That’s when he discovered BINA’s Beit Midrash TLV program, and it just clicked. At BINA, he found a space where he could engage in deep Jewish learning, but also feel comfortable to explore his Judaism for himself. At first, Naum was slightly intimidated by the expertise of the teachers and by the knowledge of his fellow participants. But, thanks to a strategic seating arrangement (he sits next to a Rabbi on sabbatical, Michelle Fisher, who guides him), and the encouragement of his peers, any intimidation has dissipated and he soon plans on adding an advanced lecture to his syllabus.
So, what does a typical day at BINA look like for Naum? He studies on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday from 9am-5pm, which he claims is exhausting in all the right ways. On Tuesday morning he works at his volunteer placement in South Tel Aviv, and in the evening he attends the community learning program ‘A Little Bit of Torah.’ Thursdays he devotes to Ulpan. There are also plenty of group activities to participate in. Naum fondly recalls a trip to a chocolate factory and to a brewery.
Like many secular Jews, Naum wasn’t raised in a religious household but he always knew he was Jewish. He came to BINA to help define his own Jewish identity and Judaism – a process that has been enriched by studying Jewish texts and trying to understand their relevance to him today. “BINA is doing something very important by giving me the freedom to study Judaism in an open environment,” affirmed Naum, “I wouldn’t be able to do this anywhere else.”
Naum’s understanding of his Judaism is ever-evolving, but it was a recent ‘Little Bit of Torah’ session with Dr. Rachel Korazim that put his experience into perspective. In the session, the students of Beit Midrash TLV analyzed Chaim Gouri’s poem “Heritage,” a poem that uses Biblical motifs to question Jewish identity today. Both the expertise of the teacher and the questions asked by the group inspired and challenged Naum, and confirmed that he is exactly where he is meant to be.
Naum spoke about his experiences with Lena Young, an intern in BINA’s External Relations Department. Find out more about the program here or contact Beit Midrash TLV.