Building and Reuniting

Originally posted in the English E-Newsletter for Yeshivat Har Etzion Alumni Tishrei 5770Building and Reuniting Hillel Maizels and Avi Zimmerman2

As the years pass by, it’s not uncommon for Gushnikim to bump into each other and sometimes even get together to catch up. Yet, how often does it happen that Gushnikim find their paths not only coinciding but also intertwining?

After completing Rabbanut Semicha at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rav Hillel Maizels’95 MTA and his wife Yael participated in the Rothschild Foundation’s “Likrat Shlichut” program, which trains community rabbis in Israel. Rav Hillel and Yael, who were familiar with community life as it exists in South Africa and Buffalo, New York (their places of upbringing, respectively), identified the need for a similar system here in Israel. They sought the appropriate community, with both the desire to develop itself and the potential to do so.

Avi Zimmerman ’95 was living in the City of Ariel with his wife Dana and their two children, Gilli Shirah and Eytan Ohr. Though he is an occupational therapist by profession, Avi accepted the city’s offer to run the new Community Aliyah Program for North American olim. The program, sponsored by all of the major aliyah organizations and institutions, encourages olim to make aliyah directly to Ariel. Many olim have been drawn to Ariel with its substantial benefits and assistance, affordable housing, easy access to Israel’s employment centers, an incomparable quality of life and an ever-developing vibrant religious community. Nonetheless, Avi recognized that the success of Ariel’s aliyah program would be dependant not on the initial arrival of the olim, but rather on their comfort level in the city and their subsequent commitment to build their lives there. The city needed a community oriented rabbinic figure, who could both provide personal guidance to the new olim and assist them in integrating into the framework of an Israeli society.

When Rav Hillel heard that the city of Ariel was looking for an Anglo community rabbi he immediately pursued the contact details. Moments later, the two Gushnikim, who spent 5 years of yeshiva together, were talking about community life in Israel, the future of the Jewish People and the earliest opportunity for the Maizels family to visit Ariel for Shabbat. A few visits later, Rav Hillel, his wife Yael and their daughters Hodaya and Elisheva were all geared up to make the move to Ariel. Rav Hillel now serves as the Rav of the Ohel Efraim community in Ariel and is teaching in a local school.

Maybe it’s not such a coincidence to see Rav Hillel and Avi teaming up. Back in Yeshiva, when Avi was the madrich for the American students, Rav Hillel was themadrich for the MTA students from South Africa and Australia. A few short years down the line, and the Maizels and Zimmerman children are playing in gantogether, while their fathers and mothers are working to develop a paradigm for community life in Israel. Whether it’s a reunification or a natural continuum, Rav Hillel and Avi are taking what they developed in Yeshiva and giving it as a gift to so many others.

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1 Response to “Building and Reuniting”


  1. 1 Tijana May 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Please help us reach as many English speaking Olim as possible for our English in Israel – a linguistic experience study. More information can be found on here: http://www.telfed.org.il/content/request-participate-survey-english-speakers-israel

    Thank you!


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