Yeshiva scholarship named in memory of Masorti leader
A scholarship, named in memory of former Masorti Judaism and New North London Synagogue co-chair Paul Shrank z"l, will enable a Noam youth leader to spend a year studying Jewish texts at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
By Gordon Kay
Paul’s wife, Selma explains why she decided to make this donation: “Some of the most important things in Paul’s life were his family, travel, chess, The Times crosswords and the New North London Synagogue. Sometimes these great passions overlapped, such as trying in vain to get his family enthused about chess or phoning back home from a payphone in Netanya (this was over 30 years ago!) to hear that the Shul had got its first premises.”
“Paul had a great love for the Shul, its community and the Masorti movement, sharing their values of inclusiveness, learning and a love of Judaism and Israel. He would have been delighted that the Shul is in this building and that we are celebrating 40 years of the community. As we mark Paul’s tenth yarzheit, I know that this scholarship would have meant a lot to him, not least because it is another stepping stone for the future of Masorti and the pivotal role in plays in the wider Jewish community.”
A special kiddush to mark Paul’s yarzheit, and to launch the scholarship is to be held this Shabbat (1 November) at New North London Synagogue.
The first recipient is Dan Eisenberg, who has worked as a camp educator for Noam, the Masorti youth programme.
Dan joined the year-long Conservative Yeshiva programme in September and it has already had an impact on how he sees the world: “So far I have ground my teeth over how to build a sukkah, discovered the transformative power of saying a bracha after using the toilet and been flung to the ecstatic insights of reading the Akeidah story in the light of Kabbalistic principles. Through sheer immersion in the texts, my understanding of Hebrew has also greatly improved.”
He has also has found a distinct ethos in the way he learns and the yeshiva staff teach: “There is open-mindedness and acceptance flowing from the teachers, and the diversity of my fellow students is very nourishing. It is an honour to walk into a building everyday where the intensity of Jewish textual study is matched by a commitment to values of equality and justice.”
Matt Plen, Masorti Judiasm Chief Executive said: “This scholarship is a fantastic chance to deepen the culture of Jewish learning within Noam and the Masorti movement as a whole. Talmud Torah – Jewish study – is not only one of the most important mitzvot, it’s a vital way of strengthening our Jewish identity and commitment.”
This scholarship is part of a wider initiative by Masorti Judaism to develop a cohort of leaders who are able to engage seriously with Jewish texts in Hebrew. Kelim, the free one-month summer programme had 13 young adults attending this summer, financed by generous donations.
The final words are left to Dan, who greatly appreciates the donation that founded his programme: “I am able to undertake this phenomenal opportunity because of the money raised by Selma Shrank in memory of Paul. Before I left for Jerusalem, I met with Selma and was deeply moved by the way she described Paul gradually discovering the beauty and wisdom of Jewish texts. It was a glimpse into his spirit and I hope that my study this year and my work for Noam next year will be ways of giving life to his spirit.”
Find out more about the Conservative Yeshiva at www.conservativeyeshiva.org