Thank you from Drs. Sean and Seri Ference

Jun 10, 2018

Thank you from Drs. Sean and Seri Ference – David Shapell z”l Memorial Married Couple Fellows, 5778

 Two years ago, my wife and I decided to put our academic and career ambitions on hold to come spend a year learning together in Israel. As we approach the end of our time at Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel, we wanted to write a short letter of thanks and appreciation to all the donors who made this experience possible. We recognize how truly blessed we were to have been awarded the David Shapell Married Couples’ Memorial Scholarship, and we would like to share some of the amazing ways this year has impacted our lives thanks to the generosity of so many supporters.

This year was an impactful experience for us both individually and as a couple. It changed our relationship to Judaism and helped us find our place within the larger Jewish community, allowing us to develop into strong Jewish leaders.

My time at Shapell’s was incredibly formative. Shapell’s imparted to me a true love for learning, and a desire to be involved in the broader Jewish community. I am now able to read and analyze Gemara and Hebrew sefarim and I feel assured in my ability to continue advanced learning with a chevrusa when I return home. Additionally, Shapell’s gave me the space to ask all my questions about Torah Judaism and how it fits into the world and my life. I now feel capable of speaking with other Jews and answering questions about basic Jewish philosophy and the impact Judaism can make in their lives.

Shapell’s planted the seeds of Jewish leadership within me, and taught me skills that I will be able to use to help my local Jewish community. It was here that I learned how to daven all of the major weekday and Shabbat prayer services, as well as how to read from the Torah as a ba’al koreih. I also had the opportunity to host regular Jewish events and Shabbat meals for the Yeshiva students, which allowed me to assume a leadership role and be a positive influence on other students. These are skills which I believe will be helpful to the growth of my local Jewish community.

My wife, Seri, was an alumnae of Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya (MRC) and was very excited to engage again in her Jewish learning. When she left MRC the first time, she felt like she had begun to build a foundation to live a Jewish life. However, having only spent 6 months at MRC, she knew she still had large gaps in her Jewish knowledge. Due to this, Seri felt that this year at MRC was truly invaluable to her. She was able to significantly improve her text skills, and also greatly expand her halachic knowledge. Seri also enjoyed being at MRC as a married woman. She was able to build a different relationship with the girls at MRC, and tried to be a role model of what a healthy married Jewish woman can be. She hopes to take her inspiration and education from this year to contribute to and inspire those in our new Jewish community.

As a couple, Shapell’s allowed us the opportunity to focus on each other, without the stresses of the working world. It encouraged us to develop a shared appreciation of Torah learning and helped us to create a strong Jewish foundation in our marriage. We both benefited greatly from the Yeshiva’s Married Couple classes, and found that the emphasis on creating shalom bayis and understanding one another really helped us to be more kind and compassionate. This year also helped us envision and build the type of Jewish family atmosphere that we will want when we have children.

Seri and I feel much more confident in our Judaism after this year. Our knowledge of halacha has expanded dramatically, and we now have a framework of when and how to ask a Rabbi for help with decisions. Looking to the future, I now feel comfortable going back to America and becoming a real resource in our community.

I would like to share with you something we heard while at Rabbi Karlinsky’s Shabbat table that we believe sums up our experience at Shapell’s. He said that as a donor, contributing to the tuition of a single man and a single women is impactful because it gives that student the ability to grow as an individual in their commitment to Judaism. However, by financing a married couple to study together in Israel you change their entire life, impacting not just them, but their future children and generations to come. Both Seri and I had come to learn in Israel independently before we were married and now again as a married couple. When reflecting on our different experiences, it is clear to us that spending time learning as a married couple has been the most impactful year of our lives. We truly appreciate all those who made it possible.

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