Featured Student: Addi Berard
Addi Berard came to Shapell’s from the comparatively small Jewish community of Calgary, Alberta, an hour east of the Rocky Mountains. He grew up playing hockey and other fine Canadian activities. His mother was born in Israel, her parent’s having made Aliyah from Yemen in the 50’s, and his dad from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He grew up in a traditional environment, attending Jewish Day School and regularly attending Friday Night services at the local Orthodox synagogue. Addi also remembers that, “In Junior High, I was blessed to come into contact with Rabbi Samuel Ross, who was hired to run the local NCSY program and often hosted Jewish teenagers at his home for Shabbat Dinners and lectures. I maintain close contact with him until this day.”
It was in his later university years that Addi began to take Judaism more seriously. He joined the board of the local Hillel, and working a night job as a bartender’s assistant. He recalls that “it gave me new perspective on life, observing the relative loneliness of the ’regular’ bar patrons that would come each week.” This realization, coupled with the long hours he was working both in school and on the job, drained him physically and psychologically. He decided that it was time to reconnect to his tradition. At the end of the school year, he went for Shabbat Lunch at a local Rabbi’s house. He remembers “feeling utterly relaxed as I felt disconnected from everything else and enjoying the Shabbat experience.”
After this experience Addi attended a branch of the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva (PTI) in Vancouver where he discovered a passion for learning. Soon after, he registered for the Lakewood Fellowship Intern Program, where he met fellow Shapell’s student Yaakov Kaufman. He set a goal of keeping every Shabbat on the program. The program allowed him to explore Judaism in a low-pressure setting which inspired him to begin growing when he returned home. Over the next year he kept Shabbat every week and enrolled in Shapell’s arriving a year later, after completing his Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Calgary with a major in accounting.
When he was looking for Yeshivot, Addi “happened upon” Shapell’s when he heard a rabbi discussing different places to learn. He visited the website and saw that the campus is close to a gym and has a summer program. He was sold. Of course, there are no coincidences. Addi has gained tremendously from his time here. Thanks to the Shapell’s methodology, he has gone from learning weekly using an Artscroll Gemara to being able to pick up a standard Gemara and learn it. He has established close relationships with many of his Rabbis. He commented, “It strikes me how much the Rabbeim care for each Shapell’s student here which has helped me grow in my learning and Judaism.”
Addi is planning on returning to Calgary, Alberta where he will start working as an Accountant and will be working towards his CPA. He plans on being active in his local Jewish community. Addi looks forward to sharing what he is gained with others. We are proud that Shapell’s has played such an important role in Addi’s growth as a religious Jew and future community leader.Click below to share!