Some 25 young men from 15 college campuses across North and South America came together for the fourth annual Chabad-Lubavitch Miami Torah Experience in North Miami Beach, Fla. From Dec. 26 to Jan. 3, students had the opportunity to delve into Jewish learning while enjoying recreational activities as well.

“It was an awesome, amazing program,” said Ezra Sacket, from Tulane University. “I feel much more strengthened in being Jewish and having Jewish pride. I learned what being Jewish really means, and I’m even trying to keep kosher and Shabbat now as a result.”

This year, students were awarded tuition discounts and travel stipends, thanks to a grant from The Chabad on Campus Miami Torah Scholarship sponsored by the Rohr family in loving memory of philanthropist Sami Rohr.

Classes on Jewish practice, mysticism and history.
Classes on Jewish practice, mysticism and history.

“It was truly wonderful, full of inspiration,” said Rabbi Immanuel Storfer, director of MTE. “It was the best program we’ve had yet; everyone got inspired. We were all on a high. We hope the students will want to return at some point in their future to do the full-time yeshivah program.”

The program offered students a “hands-on” opportunity to explore Jewish texts in Chassidic philosophy, Talmud and Bible. For many of the participants, this was their first opportunity exploring Jewish learning in-depth. Noted scholars offered classes, still leaving the students plenty of time to participate in recreational activities, such as kayaking, jet-skiing, beach volleyball, bowling and snorkeling.

Fun in the Florida sun
Fun in the Florida sun

“When I was there, I had the realization that whether we know it or not, we’re all interconnected, and there’s always a door open for a person who wants to learn more,” said Ryan Mermer, a student at Florida State University. “I strongly recommend the program to any student who has even the slightest interest in learning.”

For Rabbi Boruch Liberow, director of the Chabad Student Center at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., being involved in the program was an uplifting experience.

“It definitely had the feeling of a place where one could grow. There was a very strong feeling of unity the entire time, even though the students came from varying backgrounds,” said Liberow. “The students had great respect for each other, and they left with a much greater appreciation of Judaism.”

Rabbi Mendy Fellig, director of Chabad at the University of Miami, echoed his sentiments.

“It was a great group of kids who were very enthusiastic about learning,” said Fellig, who also acted as one of the program’s guides. “They wanted a true Jewish learning experience, and were very inquisitive and excited about all the program had to offer.”

The Miami Torah Experience, which is a joint project of Chabad-Lubavitch of Florida and the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, is a feature of the full-time yeshivah in Miami, Yeshiva Torah Ohr.

“The experience of spending time in a yeshivah environment where like-minded students focus on Jewish study and spiritual growth has proven to have a deep and long-term impact on the participants,” said Rabbi Yossy Gordon, executive vice president of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation. “It is one of the best investments a person can make into discovering and strengthening their Jewish identity.”